VAT fraudster’s assets auctioned


Assets from convicted VAT fraudster Craig Johnson’s £128 million fortune are to be sold next month by Manchester auction house SHM Smith Hodgkinson.

The auction will include items such as a Ferrari 355, Range Rover, Ducati motorbike,  Bentley Arnage and several personalised number plates including CRA 1C, 45 T and W1 LKE.

The items were seized from the Staffordshire-based mobile phone dealer in HM Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC) largest ever confiscation of criminal property.

Johnson, who lived in an eight bedroom, 17th-century, Grade II-listed mansion in Staffordshire, complete with swimming pool, gym, spa and helicopter landing pad, was ordered to repay £26 million to HMRC after being found guilty of VAT fraud totalling £128m.

He is serving a 12-and-a-half year prison sentence. The mansion went on the market last month for £2.75 million.

SHM Smith Hodgkinson said the auction is taking place near Stratford-upon-Avon on June 23 and is “strictly appointment only”.

HMRC spokesman Robert Alder said: “This case resulted in some of the longest prison sentences handed out by the courts for this type of crime. We have frozen major assets which allowed Johnson to enjoy a flamboyant and extravagant lifestyle at the expense of the British taxpayer.”

Meanwhile, a Bramcote man was last month ordered to repay crime profits of nearly £1 million to the taxpayer following his involvement in a scheme to steal £51 million in a sophisticated VAT fraud involving the sale of mobile phones and computer chips.

Malcolm Edwards-Sayer, who worked as a law lecturer and a lay preacher and bought the title of Lord Houghton to open offshore accounts in this name, received two prison sentences totalling 10 years in November 2007. If he does not repay the money he will face a further four years in prison.

HMRC froze assets including bank accounts, property and “tainted cash gifts” to other associates. Edwards-Sayer facilitated the fraud through his control of a number of mobile phone and compute chip import/export companies based in the UK and Gibraltar. He failed to pay VAT to HMRC of more than £51 million.

HMRC criminal investigation director of operations Eddie Jones said: “This was not a victimless crime but organised fraud on a massive scale perpetrated by criminals determined to profit from defrauding honest taxpayers. VAT fraud is often linked to other forms of serious and organised crime with the associated damage to our communities.”