VAT fraud gang jailed for more than five years

Elizabeth Harwood was jailed for 10 months for VAT fraud.
Elizabeth Harwood was jailed for 10 months for VAT fraud.

A gang who tried to steal £161,000 in VAT receipts have been jailed for a combined total of more than five years.

Elizabeth Harwood, of Soothill Lane, Batley, worked as bookkeeper for businessman Patrick Dugbo, his brother Solomon Dugbo and Joseph Benson, who attempted to fraudulently claim tax back on the purchase of electronic goods.

But HMRC investigations revealed that the gang had created false invoices for a series of businesses.

Between February 2008 and November 2012, Patrick Dugbo, of Derbyshire, claimed almost £128,000 in VAT repayments he was not entitled to for his business, Westlake Recycling Services, while Solomon Dugbo, of Leeds, tried to claim £33,000 for his business, Leeds Reuse Centre.

Benson, of Essex, attempted and failed to obtain any repayments for his company BJ Electronics Limited.

Harwood, 51, was found guilty of conspiring with them through her role as bookkeeper, helping to produce a large number of false invoices to cover the total fraud.

Reporting restrictions were in place until the final sentencing, which took place today (Friday).

HMRC’s criminal investigation assistant director, Stuart Taylor, said: “As HMRC closed in on their scam, they did everything they could to hide their crime, but to no avail.

“All four knew that they were breaking the law, yet they chose to overlook this to try to make what they wrongly assumed would be easy money, at the expense of the UK taxpayer.

“Tax fraud is a serious offence and we would urge anyone with information about people or businesses involved in such fraud to contact HMRC’s Tax Evasion hotline on 0800 788 887.”

Harwood was jailed for 10 months after being found guilty of conspiring to cheat the public revenue and VAT fraud.

Patrick Dugbo was sentenced to 32 months, Solomon Dugbo to 12 months and Benson to 10 and a half months for the same offence.

All four were jailed at Leeds Crown Court.