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Seven men have been imprisoned for a total of 16 years for their role in a £3.7m VAT fraud and related money-laundering offences.

Three of the men would have faced private prosecution from Microsoft had Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs not got there first. The three were Alexander Bell of Walton-on-Thames, his brother Jonathan Bell of Kingston upon Thames, and John Palmer of Weybridge - who were sentenced to four and a half, two years, and three years respectively. Jonathan Bell is banned from holding company directorships for four years, his brother and John Palmer are banned for eight years..

As well as running carousel fraud, the men were trading in pirated copies of Microsoft products.

HM Revenue and Customs raided the home of Alexander Bell during a carousel investigation and found hundreds of counterfeit Microsoft disks and certificates.

Microsoft UK head of anti-piracy Michala Alexander said: "Cases such as this one against Palmer and the Bell brothers are about the wider UK economy as HM Revenue and Customs' involvement demonstrates. We are delighted to see justice prevail in this case because the longer the likes of the Bells and Palmer remain in business, the more the profitability of our legitimate resellers is jeopardised." ®

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