One acquitted of £250m VAT fraud


Three of four mobile traders were found guilty in an on going battle against HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) late last month.

Keith Bennett, director of mobile trader Furzefield, is the only trader so far to be found not guilty of VAT fraud in connection with HMRC’s ‘Operation Euripus’ which saw 42 people arrested for a £250 million missing-trader VAT fraud in July 2003.

Two trials out of four have been concluded with six people found guilty and given jail sentences. The third trial will be held in September.

Denise Westmoreland of haulage company Beachill Logistics, Jonathan Baigant of Planit Suppliers and German Castillo, who was linked to six Spanish mobile trader companies, were found guilty last month.

Westmoreland and Baigant received six-and-a-half years imprisonment each while Castillo received a 10 year sentence.

Traders Abdul Koser, Quentin Reynold and Tahir Majid were found guilty in a trial held in July 2008. Peter Ebbrell and Curtis Laurent who were co-defendants at the trial last year will face a re-trial in September.

Bennett pleaded not guilty on the grounds of unwittingly being a participant of fraud. He was arrested after a raid at his home in February 2007. 

He said: “I’m relieved it’s all over. I experienced great personal inconvenience – I was forced to report every day to a police station for two-and-a-half years.

“It took an enormous amount of time and cost to show HMRC was incorrect in tarnishing entire trading chains. Furzefield had no dealings with missing-traders. I’m looking forward to the future.”