Customs celebrate £20m VAT bust

Daniel O’Connell was jailed for eight years at Middlesex Crown Court for a three-year plot involving computer chips, the Times reported yesterday.

O’Connell was found guilty of five counts of tax evasion between April 1996 and February last year, following a six-month trial.

The jury heard how the scam was based on the VAT-free status of goods exported from one EU country to another.Peter Cook, QC for the prosecution, said O’Connell had bought components and made them appear as if they were headed for companies in Ireland.

However, most of the £100m purchases never left Britain but were diverted to a warehouse to be sold at a profit.

O’Connell, 47, attempted to put Customs officers off the scent by handing over small payments, while treating his girlfriend to treats including a £16,000 Cartier watch and an Asprey & Garrard emerald and diamond ring worth £30,000.

Customs investigators said they were seeking a former Irish Republic minister – Michael Keating, a member of the government during the 1980’s – thought to be a partner in crime.

Keating cannot be extradited for trial, but faces arrest if he attempts to enter the country.

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