Taking Stock: A Landscape of Lies

TS HAS HEARD a fair amount about the abuse of tax reliefs for films recently, but the story of the aptly-named A Landscape of Lies could have been one of the greatest movie satires – if it weren’t true.

TS reckons it’s a bit like Ben Affleck’s multi-award-winning Argo, except in Essex.

A bunch of hair-brained crooks devised a fake movie to try and dupe the taxman into handing over millions in tax relief. However, instead of rolling in it, they face prison.

Falsely claiming the “gritty” gangster flick would cost £20m to make and backed by Jordanian benefactors, the filmmakers applied £3m in reliefs, to which HMRC acquiesced – provided they could see the movie.

Realising they faced being rumbled, former property developer Bassar Al-Issa, film producer Aoife Madden, Tariq Hassan, Ian Sherwood, and Osama Al-Baghdady cobbled together a script and cast including, among others, Loose Women‘s Andrea McLean as a bisexual therapist and the bloke who plays Gianni in Eastenders.

It gets better. Having hastily made a movie they never sought to make, their tale of a “seedy world of power, lies and betrayal” won a Silver Ace award at last year’s Las Vegas Film Festival.

Despite their best efforts, the gang’s scam was detected – TS ventures it might have something to do with the £84,000 cost of making the film, just £19,860,000 short of their original estimation.

Suffice to say, they were hauled before Southwark Crown Court where they were found guilty of conspiracy to deceive the public revenue – the first people convicted of defrauding the British Film Commission’s tax relief scheme.

It really is the sort of fiasco Armando Iannucci would have been proud of writing. TS is just let down Danny Dyer wasn’t involved.

You can watch the trailer for A Landscape of Lies here

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