A Cheshire man who pretended to trade in equestrian products was jailed last week (15 February) after a £2m tax fraud was exposed.
Anthony Knowles, 57 of Clapgate Crescent in Widnes, submitted several suspicious VAT repayment claims to HMRC in 2013 prompting an investigation.
During routine checks on Knowles’ VAT repayment claims, HMRC uncovered “myriad false documents and lies”.
The investigation revealed that Knowles had provided officers with false paperwork, including bank statements, in a bid to convince them his multi-million pound business was booming – despite it being run from his two bedroom council house.
Knowles also falsely claimed that his business was being financially supported by a Sheikh — who HMRC was never able to trace.
There were three companies registered as trading from Knowles’ home address.
Eques Nobilis Ltd was described as manufacturer of advanced medical supplies.
H2 Healthcare Ltd marketed equine products and Zone 37 Limited sold equestrian items online.
“In this case, Knowles provided dozens of fake documents to convince HMRC he was genuinely trading as a multi-million-pound empire,” said Sandra Smith, assistant director of HMRC’s fraud investigation service.
“Throughout the investigation Knowles made a number of outlandish claims to prove he was legitimate – but our officers saw through his scam,” she added.
When Knowles home was searched, HMRC investigators found forged bank statements, fake supplier invoices, digital copies of signatures to create false delivery notes and evidence of luxury spending.
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Knowles had attempted to buy a Cheshire mansion and farm and received quotes for building a huge extension.
He was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment at Liverpool Crown Court.
“Knowles was attempting to steal a substantial sum of money from British taxpayers and his abuse of the VAT repayment system was ambitious to say the least. HMRC will now begin action to recover public finances stolen in this case under Proceeds of Crime legislation,” said Smith.