Ferrari-owning businessman jailed for £9.8m VAT fraud

A high-flying businessman who masterminded a £9.8m international VAT fraud to fund his lavish lifestyle of flash cars and a luxury Spanish home, has been jailed for nine years following an HMRC investigation into a complex web of fake transactions

Jason Butler, formerly of Leeds, created hundreds of false invoices to claim millions of pounds in VAT and tried to hide the scam in a complicated trading chain involving companies in the UK, Gibraltar, Spain and the US.

Butler, who now lives in Spain, told HMRC he bought almost £60m worth of personal data, but checks revealed this was a lie. In reality he was forging purchase invoices to falsely reclaim VAT and trading very cheap raw data through a complex international supply chain in a bid to hide his crimes.

He controlled a company called Multi Level Media (MLM), based at Britannia House in Leeds. Butler said he bought and sold Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) customer data from nine UK companies via an international agency which he also controlled, between November 2011 and January 2015.

However, checks with the companies revealed that no trade ever took place and Butler had created hundreds of phoney invoices.

Instead he was buying and selling cheap raw data to a series of firms in the UK, who then sold it to a respectable data company in Gibraltar. The data was sold by them to a company in the US, which was also controlled by Butler.

Each step of the transaction chain was arranged and controlled by Butler, who created this series of transactions to try and hide his fraud by involving several companies, some of which had an established tax history with HMRC.

On paper it appeared Butler had paid substantial amounts of VAT. But the purchases were fake and backed up by forged invoices, which he used to falsely reclaim £9,875,806 in VAT.

Butler, who previously ran a number of companies in Yorkshire which were part of Jump Group Ltd, used money from the fraud to fund a portfolio of 96 properties in Leeds, a luxury Spanish home in Marbella, a collection of sports cars and a speedboat.

He owned supercars included a Ferrari Fiorano FI, Ferrari 360, Mercedes SL350, and a Lamborghini Murcielago, as well as a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow.

Butler was arrested by police at Manchester International Airport when he arrived into the UK from Malaga in January 2015. In March this year he was found guilty at Leeds Crown Court of VAT fraud and subsequently was sentenced to nine years in prison. Proceedings are now underway to recover the stolen money.

Eden Noblett, assistant director, fraud investigation service, HMRC said: ‘Butler thought he was clever and his scam too sophisticated to be uncovered. But, he was not as clever as he believed.

‘This was a complex fraud involving offshore companies and moving money internationally. This case should serve as a warning to anyone considering stealing taxpayers' money. No matter how clever and sophisticated you think your fraud is, we will catch you.’

Report by Pat Sweet

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