Jet-setting tax fraud couple to repay £350k

A Liverpool couple who were jailed over their failure to pay any VAT, National Insurance or income tax on two businesses they ran, while also fraudulently claiming benefits, have been ordered to repay £355,000 or face more time behind bars

Bernard Knutsen, and his wife Maureen, ran a pub called Chaplin’s Bar and a car repair garage in the city. They were jailed for a total of seven years for tax and benefit fraud following a joint investigation by HMRC, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Liverpool City Council.

HMRC investigators discovered that the pair had enjoyed extravagant trips to the USA, Dubai, South Africa, the Far East, Argentina and Antarctica. They also spent £24,000 on a new kitchen.

A search of their home uncovered a wealth of jewellery, including Rolex watches and Royal Mint gold sovereign coins, as well as bundles of cash totalling almost £40,000 stashed in handbags.

Investigators also found that the couple had a £50,000 endowment policy, and had placed £20,000 into the bank accounts of their grandchildren.

They now face losing their family home and pub business as well as expensive jewellery and tens of thousands of pounds in savings, following  a confiscation hearing led by HMRC at Liverpool Crown Court on October 4.

Bernard Knutsen was ordered to repay £323,195 within three months or spend another three years behind bars. Of this, £76,459 of this will be paid as compensation to DWP. Maureen Knutsen must repay £32,929 within three months or face another year in prison.

Debbie Porter, assistant director, fraud investigation service, HMRC, said: ‘The Knutsens lived a jet-set lifestyle paid for by a criminal income from cheating every honest tax payer. The Knutsens lost their liberty because of their greed and now face more time behind bars.’

The couple’s daughter Kelly Knutsen, who was sentenced to 21 months suspended for two years for her involvement in the fraud, has been ordered to repay £5,010 within 28 days or face three months in jail.

She was found to have received unexplained money from both businesses into her bank account and owned a £4,000 Rolex watch. She also claimed benefit to cover her rent but failed to declare a second property she owned and rented out. The £5,010 will be paid to Liverpool City Council as compensation.

Report by Pat Sweet

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