Farmer Jailed For Massive HMRC Fraud

There are many jobs and roles that are under pressure these days, and it is easy to see why some folk think that they need to cut corners to make progress or earn a living. There is a lot to be said for the immense level of pressure that farmers are being put under, and this may be why some farmers, when presented with an opportunity to make some extra income, or bolster their finances, will jump at the chance. We all have to do what we think is best for our finances and our family but this is where a decision has to be made.

A farmer has been jailed for three years after they took part in a VAT scam which saw them benefit from £1.4m of taxpayers money. The 50 year old famer swindled the cash in between 2008 and 2011 and it led to him living a luxury lifestyle. A court heard that the farmer spent £70,000 on a speed boat and £38,000 on an Aston Martin car during this period. The court also heard that the farmer used over £1.3m of the money in trying to keep debt collectors and bailiffs away from the family farm.

He was eventually arrested but was then able to flee to Zimbabwe for nearly a year where he refused to respond to the bail he was placed under. However, the farmer eventually returned to the UK after contracting malaria where he was arrested in his rented cottage, which was connected to his farm.

This meant that the farmer could have faced a number of charges including:

  • Resisting arrest
  • Escaping arrest
  • Breaking bail conditions
  • Fraud

A Three year sentence for Fraudulent Farmer

After pleading guilty to a charge of fraud in the Crown Court in Worcester, he was jailed for three years. The sentencing indicated that farming life in the United Kingdom is difficult but given the size of the fraud and then absconding to Zimbabwe meant that the farmer had to be dealt with in a serious manner.

The farm, based in the Cotswolds, suffered a number of serious problems, including the floods of 2007, TB and the foot and mouth outbreak, which left the farmer and his family struggling for cash. The farm actually made a minimal profit, on a turnover every year of £90,000, but with two families to support, there was not enough money rolling in. the problem is, this is the sort of situation that many people have faced across the country and if there is not enough money coming in, there is a need to cut back on costs or to raise more income. The fact that the farmer decided to raise more income, in an illegal manner, is the crux of the issue.

Farms carry a VAT zero-rating

The fraud came with the fact that farms carry a zero-rating for VAT and they are in a position where they are able to claim money back from the HMRC against purchases they make. The farmer then made claims of an excessive nature (around £200,000) in a three month period in 2011, and this was enough to start an investigation into the farm and the farmer. The investigation uncovered over claims to the value of £1,415,745 in a three year period. When this fraud was noticed, the farmer tried to throw investigators off the scent of the trail by creating false invoices. In total, over 40 fraudulent claims for VAT repayment were made in this period of time.

There will also be a POCA hearing at a later date, in an attempt to claim back more of the money that was issued fraudulently. Whether there is much left to take after the exploits of the past few years remains to be seen, but this is an increasingly common conclusion to fraud cases these days.

This is why people facing fraudulent charges need to ensure that they have the best level of representation, especially when it comes to POCA. POCA is still a relatively new element and this means that not every solicitor or solicitor firm is up to speed with what they should be doing to provide the best level of support to a client.

This can make a massive difference to the findings or outcome of a case, so it is important to find criminal defence professionals that can offer support and guidance in a relevant and meaningful way.

Andrew Reilly is a freelance writer with a focus on news stories and consumer interest articles. He has been writing professionally for 8 years but has been writing for as long as he can care to remember. When Andrew isn’t sat behind a laptop or researching a story, he will be found watching a gig or a game of football.