Businessmen Marshall Boston and Lee Sellers jailed for part in phone VAT fraud
TWO businessmen have been jailed for their part in one of the largest and most complex mobile phone tax frauds uncovered to date.
Marshall Boston and Lee Sellers are among 15 people convicted of trying to steal £176 million from the public purse in the international VAT swindle.
The plot saw the crooks make vast sums of cash from the Government by devising a con involving the VAT-free import and export of phones from EU countries.
They claimed to have sold four million handsets worth £1.7 billion, including 250,000 phones which had not even been launched in the UK.
The gang used a string of false documents and made up companies to trick the taxman into believing the phones were being legitimately sold in the UK with VAT added on.
The men then claimed the tax back from the Government – when in actual fact no VAT had been paid in the first place.
Boston, of Hugo Way, Loggerheads, was jailed for two years and banned from being a company director for five years.
The 46-year-old, who owned Belgium-based freight company Boston Freight, admitted fraudulently dodging VAT.
Sellers, aged 42, of Whitehurst Lane, Dilhorne, was locked up for two-and-a-half years, and also banned from being a company director for five years.
Sellers, the owner of freight company A1 Logistics and Freight Ltd, admitted fraudulent trading. Another gang member, Paul Smith, aged 43, of Hawthorne Avenue, Trent Vale, was given a 12-month suspended jail sentence on January 27 and ordered to carry out 240 hours of unpaid work.
Smith became embroiled in the scam as one of Boston's managers.
The men were sentenced at Kingston Crown Court in Surrey after a series of trials, which can now be reported.
The 15 gang members from the across the UK were jailed for a total of more than 64 years.
The ringleader, Dilawar Ravjani, will serve 17 years – the longest penalty imposed for so-called 'carousel' fraud.
Investigators were alerted after they discovered the gang had been claiming to trade phones made by Sony Ericsson and Samsung which, although they had been unveiled in promotional campaigns, were not yet on sale.
Some £170,000 in cash was found during the investigation, including £80,000 stuffed into drawers at one of Ravjani's companies, Future Communications, which investigators believe was to be used to pay off accomplices at other businesses.
Donald Toon, criminal investigations director at Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, said: "The people who run these scams aren't isolated individuals.
"Some of them are professional major fraudsters and it's a massively international game."