Dubai tourism con VAT fraudster jailed

The final member of a gang who conned several UK companies by falsely claiming they had secured a £15 million publicity contract from Dubai’s Department of Tourism has been jailed.

Darren Thomas, 42, from Bath, was one of a four-strong group who attempted to fraudulently claim a £1.9 million VAT refund.

But there was no contract and no money and as soon as the targeted businesses agreed to sell advertising space, the gang demanded invoices – these supported the fraudulent VAT claim.

Thomas was jailed for four years after an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs.

He was found guilty of conspiracy to cheat the public revenue of after a trial at Derby Crown Court and sentenced for his part in the fraud when he appeared at Northampton Crown Court on Friday.

Three other men involved in the fraud were jailed in May 2014 after being found guilty at a trial for a total of fourteen-and-a-half years, two of which were also disqualified from acting as directors for eight and seven years respectively.

HMRC became suspicious when newly-registered Wilnecote Hall Marketing (WHM) submitted the huge VAT repayment claim in April 2011, despite having an estimated turnover of only £1 million a year.

Investigations revealed the ringleaders had enlisted the support of Thomas, who adopted a false identity and acted as a negotiator supposedly between the Government of Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, WHM and the companies selling advertising space.

HMRC assistant director, criminal investigation, Richard Wentel, said: “HMRC is devoting more resources than ever to tracking down fraudsters. This case sends out a clear message that we are coming after them.

“All four men were utterly determined to commit a huge fraud, starting with their initial repayment claim and the prison sentence handed to Thomas means all have now been brought to justice for sentences totalling more than 18 years.”

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