Two fraudsters have been sentenced after attempting to steal £220,000 through a complex fraud involving Chanel designer goods.
The married couple from Chelsea, West London, bought goods from various Chanel boutiques in Chelsea and Mayfair, pretending to be wealthy foreign customers.The scam involved returning the expensive items to other Chanel boutiques to obtain refunds.
They did this so often that their relationships with the shop staff meant they were able to trick Chanel into giving them VAT refund vouchers for these fictitious purchases.
VAT refund vouchers
VAT refund vouchers allow shoppers from outside the EU to buy goods and then claim back the VAT using a voucher (VAT 407) which is stamped upon leaving the EU. The shopper then sends the VAT 407 back to the original shop where the goods were purchased, and the VAT is refunded back to them.
Once the couple had collected enough fake VAT refund vouchers they used a fake Customs stamp to validate their fraudulent vouchers before sending them to Premier Tax Free (PTF), who handle Chanel's VAT refunds to customers. PTF refunded £177,000 VAT directly to the pairs bank accounts, allowing them to spend the stolen money freely.
The couple lived in a luxury £1.8m penthouse in Chelsea harbour and spent the money on private schooling for their children and gambling at high-end casinos before being caught by HM Revenue & Customs.
The couple passed themselves off as wealthy and told others they made a living from gambling in Casinos. The reality was that they had very little money of their own and more than half of their rent was paid by housing benefit.
Martin Brown, Assistant Director for Criminal Investigation at HMRC said:"They passed themselves off as high rollers and spent large sums of criminal cash in expensive boutiques and at casinos. They had no idea that HMRC officers were one step ahead and ready to arrest them. Fraudsters should take this as a warning - we will find you and you will have your day in court."
The husband was sentenced to four and half years his wife was sentenced to 51 weeks suspended for two years after being convicted of intent to defraud HMRC and handling the proceeds of crime.
For further information visit the HMRC website.
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