Tax fugitive jailed for £5m fraud

HMRC has reported that one of the UK’s most wanted tax fugitives, who escaped to Ireland 12 years ago, has finally been sent to jail for committing a £5m tax fraud, and faces a repayment order for over £7m

Former construction company boss, Thomas O’Connor, was convicted of cheating the public revenue after an HMRC investigation but fled before he was jailed for four-and-a-half years.

O’Connor was tracked down in Ireland by specialist HMRC officers in June 2011 and arrested by Irish police. He then launched a seven-year legal battle to try and block his extradition through the Irish court system. The case was ultimately presented to the European Court of Justice but was dismissed.

He has now been returned to the UK to begin his jail term and appeared at Blackfriars Crown Court on 2 November, his birthday, where his sentence was confirmed.

O’Connor, who was living in London during his original trial in 2006, was convicted of a large-scale subcontractor fraud between September 2002 and December 2004 along with two others. The trio, who were directors of construction industry firms, produced bogus invoices to make false returns through the construction industry scheme.

O’Connor was convicted after a six-week trial and was bailed following conviction. But he failed to attend sentencing and a warrant for his arrest was issued in December 2006.

HMRC secured a confiscation order against O’Connor in 2007 to make him repay £4.2m, which has since risen to £7.9m with interest. If he does not pay the order, he will spend another five years in prison and still owe the money.

Gary Forbes, assistant director, fraud investigation service, HMRC, said: ‘We are delighted to be giving O’Connor the birthday present he deserves - a prison cell. He resorted to a series of desperate legal claims in a bid to cheat justice but he’s finally where he belongs.

‘We will relentlessly pursue fugitives who think they can dodge UK justice. Our message to others like O’Connor is very simple. We will keep pursuing you, no matter how long it takes.’

Report by Pat Sweet

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