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Chip fraud quartet jailed for VAT scam

'Missing traders' get nine years

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Four people have been sentenced to a total of nine years in prison for Missing Trader VAT Fraud.

The three men and a woman were sentenced at Southwark Crown Court late last week. They are Paul Andrew Ward from Leighton Buzzard who got six years and six months, Michael Stuart Keech from Northamptonshire sentenced to 12 months, Karina Clarke from Streatham, who got 12 months, and Paul Warren Sykes from Kent who was sentenced to 8 months.

The Customs investigation began in February 2002 when 25 properties were raided in the South-east, Midlands and North of England. Revenue Officers in Ireland also raided addresses.

Andrew Gilchrist, Customs Assistant Chief Investigation Officer, said: "These individuals committed a systematic attack on the VAT system. Customs is committed to stamping out VAT fraud and will continue to demonstrate that our capability can be a match for serious criminals engaged in fiscal crime."

Missing Trader Fraud involves registering a UK company for VAT. Once registered the company is allowed to import goods without VAT from other EU member states. The company then sells equipment on with the VAT added. They then disappear without paying Customs and Excise the VAT they owe them. The scam in this case involved importing computer chips from the Republic of Ireland into the UK through a network of companies.

Customs got extra funding to fight VAT fraud in November 2002. Revenue lost to this fraud fell for the first time in 2002-2003 by five per cent to between £1.64bn and £2.64bn. ®

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