Ex-Vantis tax director jailed for shares fraud

by Nick Huber

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08 Feb 2012

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A FORMER Vantis tax director has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for trying to defraud taxpayers of £70m.

David Perrin, a former director at collapsed accountancy firm Vantis, spent his cut of the stolen cash on expensive second homes, exotic holidays, works of art and luxury cars, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said.

Perrin, who was deputy managing director at Vantis Tax, the listed firm which collapsed in 2010, was convicted of cheating the taxman in January.

Blackfriars Crown Court was told how he devised and operated a tax avoidance scheme which he sold to wealthy taxpayers in order to exploit the law on giving shares to charity, allowing him to pocket more than £2m in fees from their unsuspecting clients.

Perrin used a network of finance professionals to advise more than 600 wealthy clients to buy shares, worth a few pence each, in four new companies he had set up. He then listed the companies on the Channel Islands Stock Exchange and paid people money from an offshore account to buy and sell the shares to inflate their price.

The share owners then donated 329 million shares to various unsuspecting registered charities and tried to claim £70m tax relief on a total of £213m of income and company profits. This was based on the shares being worth up to £1 each, rather than the pennies they were originally bought for. Perrin also used the bogus scheme to claim money back.

The scheme proved so popular that, according to HMRC Vantis employees performed a celebratory song at their annual conference, to the tune of the 1970s Gloria Gaynor song "I will survive".

Jim Graham, HMRC criminal investigator, said: "With his knowledge of the tax system, Perrin thought that he was one step ahead of both HMRC and the law. This cynical fraud not only stole millions of pounds from taxpayers, but also conned innocent charities into accepting gifts of virtually worthless shares, just so Perrin could inflate his own criminal earnings."

The reworded song included the verse: "They should have changed that stupid law, they should have buggered charity, but they have left that lovely tax relief, for folks to pay to me."

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