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Brit robot programmers banged up for £500,000 tax evasion

Biz pair lived life of Riley on cash hidden offshore

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Two robot programmers have been jailed for income tax evasion after hiding their company's sales in offshore accounts.

Roderick Smith, of Duddon Close, Standish, Wigan, and Stephen Howarth, of Gee Cross, Hyde, Cheshire, managed to evade about £500,000 in UK income tax over six years by diverting most of their firm's balance into accounts in Mauritius and the Isle of Man.

Smith, 44, was sentenced to 15 months in prison for fraud, and Howarth, also 44, was jailed for a year. The two company directors must repay £300,000 and £200,000 respectively within two years or their sentences will be doubled.

The businessmen lived a life of luxury, jetting off on expensive holidays and blowing thousands on flash motors, according to HMRC.

"You cheated the Inland Revenue and therefore this country, by evasion of income tax," Judge Warnock told the pair at Liverpool Crown Court during a sentencing hearing yesterday.

"The authors of your references will be shocked and disappointed at what, in effect, were crimes motivated by greed and selfishness. Only sentences of imprisonment are appropriate in respect of the offences you have committed. To suspend these sentences would offend any reasonable sense of justice on the part of the honest taxpayer."

HMRC said both men failed to own up to their offshore accounts. Smith copped to one account but omitted 11 others and Howarth didn't mention any of his accounts.

The men ran a Manchester-based company that programmed robots used in the car trade and had plenty of customers in Germany. Alerted by the German tax authorities, HMRC investigators found that Goldlogic Control Systems had £1.25m in sales in the country but only declared £49,650 of it.

"Smith and Howarth stole from UK taxpayers, using the money that should have paid for public services to fund luxury lifestyles filled with prestige cars and expensive holidays," HMRC assistant director of criminal investigation Mike Preston said in a statement.

Both men must also pay £5,000 in court costs. Smith has already paid back £40,000. ®

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