£6.9m tax fraud puts accountant, payroll head and director in prison

A £6.9m tax fraud committed in the UK has seen three businessmen, including an accountant and a payroll administrator, jailed for a total of 19 years.

Between them they defrauded HMRC of VAT, income tax, national insurance, contributions and construction industry scheme (CIS) deductions to fund “lavish lifestyles” over two and half years.

The co-conspirators from Kent were accountant Aquil Ahmed, 60, construction services company director Victor Shearer, 43, and payroll administrator Christopher Azzopardi, 37 – employed by Ahmed. They were sentenced to seven years 8 months, seven years 6 months and four years imprisonment, respectively, at Maidstone Crown Court on 21 October.

(from left to right) Ahmed, Shearer, Azzopardi

Chris Gill, assistant director of the fraud investigation service at HMRC, said: “These men were driven by greed, abusing systems designed to ensure correct wages and taxes. The professionals knew they were breaking the law, and as an accountant Ahmed was in a position of trust, which is deplorable.”

Azzopardi operated the payroll services for clients, adding VAT not paid through the PAYE or CIS systems to HMRC, which workers were unaware of. The men used offshore and UK bank accounts and a network of companies to attempt to hide the fraud. Ahmed and Shearer, now both banned from being a company director for ten years, channeled money through Gibraltar, with Shearer having a £1.2m cut held there, as well as the Channel Islands, the UAE, USA, Turkey and various property transactions.

Gill added: “These criminals thought that they could hide but our investigations are thorough, and with assistance from Gibraltar, we unravelled what they’d created and they are now paying the price. No one is beyond our reach.”

The court heard Azzopardi was in debt and he was receiving a tax free £60,000 annual salary from Ahmed, double the normal bookkeeper wage. Ahmed owned a Bentley, bought properties and took multiple foreign holidays.

Shearer’s construction contractors company, Leaner Logistics, turned to Ahmed’s Keepers companies to run his payroll and CIS, and further, introduced other clients to the payroll company and its fraudulent schemes.

Ahmed was a former director accountancy and financial management companies, including Keepers Accountancy & Taxation Ltd. He pleaded not guilty for money laundering.

Ahmed pleaded guilty to three counts of cheating the public revenue at Maidstone Crown Court on 14 June 2016. Shearer and Azzopardi were found guilty of three counts of cheating the public revenue on 21 July 2016, after a six week trial at the same court. Shearer was also found guilty of laundering his £1.2 million cut through a bank account in Gibraltar.

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