Four found guilty in £30 million mobile phone VAT scam

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Brian Murray, 48, Ross Bell, (pictured) 42, Lonnie Smith, 42, and Gary Salter, 43 all convicted of cheating the public revenue.

Four members of an organised crime gang have been found guilty of offences relating to a £30 million VAT scam involving mobile phones.

The ‘missing trader’ VAT fraud saw the individuals importing mobile phones and computer chips from Europe and the US, before passing them though a complex supply chain. The good would then be exported via Amber Communication Management (ACM) to Switzerland and Dubai.

ACM would then reclaim VAT repayments despite traders at the beginning of the chain, some of which were set up specifically to commit fraud, failing to pay the VAT charged on the original supply.

ACM directors Brian Murray, 48 and Ross Bell, 42 and company secretary Lonnie Smith, 42, all from Kent, were convicted of cheating the public revenue and money laundering at Kingston Crown Court last week. 43-year old employee Garry Salter from London was convicted of cheating the public revenue during the same trial.

The firm had already claimed some £10m from HMRC when their fraud was discovered when ACM tried to claim a further £18 million.

“This gang stole vast amounts of money they neither earned nor deserved, all at the expense of honest people,” said John Cooper, assistant director criminal investigation, HMRC. “They did this to fund the purchase of shares, high-end vehicles, a boat and property in Dubai. We also found evidence that the gang had had numerous foreign holidays, withdrawn large sums of cash and made payments to family members.”

He added: “HMRC works tirelessly not only to identify and stop fraud, but also to recover the profits of crime. Our next priority is to seek out the gang’s assets, so that we can reclaim the proceeds of their illegal activities.”

They will be sentenced in April.

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