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HMRC nabs 5 after £500k 'cyber attack' on tax systems

Italian authorities helped taxman cuff suspect as he got off plane

Computer systems operated by the UK's tax authority have been subjected to a cyber attack in an attempted tax scam, it has said.

HMRC said that it suspects five men it arrested of using "illegally obtained personal data from third parties" to set up fake tax self-assessment accounts online in a bid to "steal large sums of false tax rebates".

It said that the value of the attempted fraud would have amounted to £500,000.

HMRC said it had arrested a man at Stansted Airport on the charge of "cheating the Revenue". The suspect is still in custody, it added.

A further four people were arrested before being released on bail pending further enquiries.

Italian cyber crime investigators helped the tax authority to identify and arrest the charged individual as he disembarked a flight from Italy on Saturday, it said.

"HMRC’s online systems proved extremely resilient to these attacks - they correctly identified and prevented the vast majority of false repayment attempts from the outset," Andrew Sackey, assistant director of criminal investigation at HMRC, said. "These arrests clearly demonstrate that we can, and will, apprehend those suspected of attempting to cheat UK taxpayers by defrauding HMRC, with international assistance if necessary."

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