Three sisters jailed for £323k VAT scam

Three sisters from Manchester have been jailed for a total of 60 months after stealing the passport details of tourists to falsely claim £323,000 in VAT refunds

HMRC discovered that Yuan Ting Yue, Yuan Yee Yue and Yuan Ling Yue from Salford abused a scheme which allows international tourists to claim VAT refunds on goods bought in the UK.

Yuan Ting, who was a Louis Vuitton sales assistant at the Selfridges in Manchester, copied passport details from the legitimate tax reclaim forms of international travellers and used them on fake claims, which she and her two sisters would post at Manchester Airport.

She used these details to complete fraudulent claim forms for non-existent purchases of luxury bags, shoes and wallets. However, she put various family members’ bank accounts on the forms so that the money would be paid to them.

The claims were posted at a Manchester Airport dropbox by Yuan Ting or her two sisters, both of whom worked at a duty-free shop in the airport. They were repaid £239,794 between June 2016 and February 2017 and attempted to claim a further £83,455.

UK Border Force, which manages the scheme, became suspicious when repeated claims were made with the same bank account numbers but with different names and passport details. The case was then passed on to HMRC for investigation.

When HMRC investigators searched the sisters’ home they found Yuan Ting’s laptop which contained a spreadsheet with details of family bank accounts and how much cash had been repaid. Payments had been made to at least nine family members, including the sisters’ mother, father, brother and two cousins.

All three sisters admitted tax fraud and were sentenced at Manchester Crown Court on 2 January 2019. Yuan Ting was jailed for two years and six months, while Yuan Yee and Yuan Ling were each jailed for 15 months.

Paul Maybury, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: ‘This was a careful and calculated attempt to steal from the public purse. Yuan Ting cynically exploited her position of trust to steal passport details for her fraudulent claims. Yuan Yee and Yuan Ling were fully complicit in the deception with vast amounts of cash placed in their own bank accounts.

‘VAT fraud takes funding from our public services. The money stolen by the sisters could have been used to pay for the salaries of 14 qualified nurses for a year.’

Report by Amy Austin

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