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Jury clears businessman in VAT fraud case

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An Irish businessman walked free last week after a UK court found him not guilty of multi-million pound VAT offences.

Dylan Creaven, 31, of Kensington, London, was accused of defrauding HM Customs and Excise of £14m. He was originally arrested in late 2002 and accused of fraud totalling £162m. Charges were later reduced to two charges of conspiracy to defraud the public revenue.

After a month long trial the jury at Blackfriars Crown Court took eight hours to return a unanimous verdict of not guilty. When the second not guilty verdict was read out Creaven wept, according to The Scotsman.

Creaven traded as Silicon Technologies Europe Ltd which turned over €417m in 2000 to 2001. Authorities grew suspicious and Customs and the Irish Garda began the “Operation Chipstick” investigation.

The case was brought by Customs and Excise. Creaven was accused of masterminding an international missing trader scheme. Under such scams goods sourced from within the EC, and therefore VAT-free, are sold on with VAT "added" before the trader disappears.

Customs and Excise sent El Reg the following statement: "We will consider carefully the consequences of the verdict in Chipstick. We are confident that this prosecution was properly brought. The positive actions taken by the Department since 2000 have had a major impact on the non-economic cross-border trade in mobile phones and computer chips and have reduced significantly the tax losses to the exchequer from missing trader fraud.

"HMRC will continue to apply a wide range of sanctions to those who attack the VAT system or assist others to do so, and bring criminal prosecutions where necessary against the most serious offenders."

Authorities seized €22m of Creaven's alleged assets in Ireland along with a €1.2m mansion in County Clare and bank accounts in the Middle East and US, according to The Guardian.

Despite last week's aquittal, Creaven still faces a battle to get his money back - civil proceedings in Ireland against Creaven’s assets are continuing. The UK's Assets Recovery Agency is reportedly considering action to claim back assets from Creaven. ARA will neither confirm or deny upcoming investigations.

In another blow to Customs, a related case prosecuting eight men and a woman with £100m VAT fraud was stopped by the judge because Customs failed to disclose all its documents to the defence, The Guardian reports.

We did our best to track down Mr Creaven without success - we'd love to talk to him at the usual address...®

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