A man from Abergele has been jailed for being part of a gang which stole £17 million worth of taxpayers’ money.
The fraud involved stealing VAT by selling on mobile phones and other equipment.
Russell Crowther, right, was jailed for a total of 15 years, along with four other people.
During a four and a half year investigation, criminal investigators from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) smashed the multi-million pound fraud, centred on the mobile phone industry.
VAT claims to steal a further £5m had been made but were stopped before the money could be paid. Paperwork recovered during house searches also showed the gang were planning on a further fraud to steal an additional £300m of VAT from the public purse – this plot was foiled.
Gary Lampon, Assistant Director of Criminal Investigation for HMRC said: “This was organised fraud on a massive scale used to blatantly fund the extravagant lifestyles of this criminal gang at the expense of the British taxpayer.
“‘Missing trader’ fraud is not merely a paper fraud, it is organised crime and we are determined to pursue and bring to justice the criminals behind this type of fraud and confiscate the proceeds of their crimes.”
The HMRC operation involved investigations in China, Taiwan, India, Italy, Denmark, Germany and Belgium. HMRC investigators worked with overseas officials to follow the trail of money that had been illegally diverted out of the UK in a bid to avoid detection.
Over £8m assets have been restrained so far and confiscation proceedings are underway.