13 Nov 2017
Members of a criminal gang comprising a banker, lawyer and other professionals, have been jailed for a $107.9 million tax fraud scheme.
The six men, who were given sentences totalling 45 years, devised a fake eco-investment plot as a tax break for rich investors.
“The scheme enticed high earners to invest with the undertaking research and development into the best ways to reforest the Brazilian rainforest to assist in the fight against global warming,” UK tax collector HMRC explained in statement.
The gang [however] used the investment to fund their lavish lifestyles, including purchasing real estate and luxury holidays, HMRC said.
Solicitor and former Rotary Club of London president Rodney Whiston-Dew set up offshore structures to disguise the true nature of the fraud and hide the money, none of which was declared to HMRC.
Ex-banker Evdoros Chrysanthos Demetriou was also jailed, alongside Cambridge-educated engineer Michael Richards, the originator of the fraud.
Richards led the group to create and trade Carbon Emission Reduction Certificates which help countries hit environmental emissions targets set by the United Nations.
He lured wealthy individuals to invest in largely fake environmental projects with the promise of a tax break.
Dubai-based entrepreneur Robert Gold ensured the fraudulent deals took place, and diverted money from the scheme to purchase properties in the UK and Dubai for himself, said HMRC.
The far reaching and forensic investigation lasted ten years and revealed that the scheme was “nothing more than a fraud based on a complex series of contrived bank and paper transactions.”
The men denied charges of conspiracy to cheat the public revenue when the case opened in February 2017, however they were found guilty by a jury and sentenced on 10 November.
Sentencing the men, the Honourable Mr Justice Andrew Edis said: “You played with high stakes and lost. It was bare-faced dishonesty and you did everything to inflict loss on the public, the people who pay their taxes, who were also victims.
“It was utter dishonesty, sophisticated planning and astonishing greed hidden behind a mask of concern for the environment.”
There is no evidence to suggest investors knew the scheme was a scam or that their money was not being spent on research and development, HMRC said.
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