Called to account: February 2015

Called to account

A roundup of the latest sentences for financial controllers, accountants and VAT fraud cases

Jail for ex estate agency financial controller who stole £1.3m

A financial controller who stole £1.3m from her employer, upmarket London estate agent Hurford Salvi Carr (HSC), has been ordered into custody to prevent ‘further mischief’ while she waits for the details of her prison sentence.

Pending sentencing on 13 February, 45-year-old Karen Chin of Highgate has already been put behind bars by Judge David Richardson, who is demanding to know what she spent the money on.

During the matter, heard at Blackfriars Crown Court, it emerged that Chin diverted HSC client funds into multiple bank and credit card accounts she controlled.

HSC claimed Chin spent the cash on high-living, luxury goods and holidays, including the rental of a private plane and a £35,000 family vacation to Mauritius.

Prosecutor David Markham told the court Chin was employed at HSC as a financial controller on a £38,000 annual salary since 1999 until she was sacked on June 25, 2013.

She was trusted with the company chequebook and online payments but made 304 money transfers into her own accounts between 2008 and 2013.

‘An audit report revealed she had been dishonestly siphoning off client account funds into her own accounts,’ said Markham.

HSC says Chin ignored two High Court warrants to appear, moved money to secret accounts showed no remorse.

Judge Richardson said: ‘You are plainly going to prison and the only question is for how long. I want to know what you have done with the money and if it is true you have been shifting assets. I have no intention of leaving you outside prison where you may cause further mischief in relation to your assets.’

Chin pleaded guilty to nine counts of fraud by abuse of a position of trust between 19 February 2008 and 19 February 2013 and asked for three offences under the Theft Act, committed before 2008, to be taken into consideration.

On 28 June 2013 the High Court froze Chin’s assets, including her £1.5m family home, but only £12,000 has been recovered. A £50,000 cheque she wrote to her former employers bounced.

Derby accountant jailed for tax fraud

An accountant from Derby has been jailed for 16 months after pleading guilty to seven tax fraud offences totalling over £65,000 following an HMRC investigation.

Stephen Douce, a co-director of ACA Accountancy Services Ltd (ACA), filed self assessment returns which stated that his annual household income was only £4,500 per year for both himself and his wife when in fact it was more than £56,000. He also claimed tax credits for two years.

HMRC investigations showed that between 2008 and 2013, Douce had failed to pass over to HMRC VAT payments which he had taken from clients. During that period ACA received several payments from different clients who produced evidence for HMRC to show that Douce provided and invoiced taxable services to them totalling £191,609 including VAT of £31,805.

Douce submitted nil VAT returns for these transactions to HMRC and pocketed the VAT and additionally evaded income tax and NIC of £18,203 for himself and £1,591.21 for his wife.

After pleading guilty to seven offences at a previous court hearing in 2014, Douce has now been given a 16-month prison sentence. Confiscation proceedings to recover the stolen money have begun.

Director disqualified over £834k carousel fraud

The director of Luton-based mobile phone wholesaler, Comveen Ltd, has been disqualified for 13 years due to her involving the company in a scheme linked to VAT fraud and making wrongful VAT reclaims against HMRC totalling £834,334. Monica Davies cannot promote, manage or direct a limited company until 2027.

This follows an investigation by the Insolvency Service, whose involvement began with the winding up of the company for unpaid VAT owed to HMRC. Investigators discovered that between 10 March 2005 and 6 December 2006, Comveen bought mobile phones in the UK and made sales of £122m, including £106m to UK wholesalers, and £15m to wholesalers in other EU countries.

Comveen filed quarterly returns with HMRC reclaiming UK VAT monies of £834,334 which Davies claimed missing traders had failed to pay over earlier in their supply chains.

The Tribunal judgment backed HMRC’s decision that the only reasonable explanation for the transactions was that they were connected with the fraudulent evasion of VAT.

Pat Sweet |Reporter, Accountancy Daily [2010-2021]

Pat Sweet was the former online reporter at Accountancy Daily and contributor to the monthly Accountancy magazine, pub...

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