Father and son tax fugitives who scammed HMRC out of almost £1 million to fund their lavish lifestyles have finally been brought to justice after months spent on the run in Spain.
Former Sandbanks resident Jamie Colwell, 51, and his father Brian Colwell, 76, were arrested at a Benidorm villa on May 9, before being extradited to the UK yesterday.
In a brazen scam that spanned six years, the Colwells and Jamie’s then girlfriend Briony James, 45, claimed they had spent £14m building new properties in order to recoup £965,897 in VAT from HMRC.
Jamie Colwell, 51, and his father Brian Colwell, 76, were arrested at a Benidorm villa on May 9, before being extradited to the UK yesterday. The pair were sentenced in absence in January to five years and two years respectively, and began their sentences today
But the new homes were never built and the trio instead spent the money on a rented property on the exclusive Sandbanks, sports cars such as a Porsche and a Mercedes, designer clothes and a speedboat.
The pair were sentenced in absence in January to five years and three months, and two years and eight months respectively, and began their sentences today.
It has emerged that in January, Jamie fled to northern France in a light aircraft, while his father travelled from Portsmouth to Caen via ferry. Once there, they crossed the Spanish border managing to slip the net.
HMRC investigators and law enforcement partners abroad tracked the pair to the expat haven in Alicante, southeastern Spain.
As part of the investigation, an Oxfordshire man was arrested on May 2 on suspicion of assisting an offender and perverting the course of justice. He has been released under investigation and enquiries continue.
The fraudsters’ lucrative scam, which lasted between 2009 and 2015, finally unravelled when HMRC investigators looked into the group’s two bogus companies and found their ‘office’ was actually the bedroom of Brian Colwell’s house in Bournemouth, Dorset.
In a brazen scam that spanned six years, the Colwells and Jamie’s then girlfriend Briony James, 45, claimed they had spent £14m building new properties in order to recoup £965,897 in VAT from HMRC
There they recovered fake invoices that were in a ‘higgledy piggledy’ fashion in carrier bags and launched criminal proceedings against the three.
Richard Wilkinson, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: ‘The Colwells thought they could evade prison and use their criminal cash to fund a new life on the Costa Blanca but they were wrong.
‘With close cooperation from our international law enforcement partners we tracked the fugitives down, so they can now look forward to jail instead.
They spent the money on their luxury lifestyles that included a rented property on exclusive Sandbanks (pictured), high-performance cars such as a Porsche and Mercedes, designer clothes and a speedboat. Jamie Colwell pleaded guilty to fraud offences relating to the full amount of £965,421
‘HMRC is determined to ensure absconders face justice. We will pursue those criminals who blatantly steal from the public services we all rely on, and look to recover the proceeds of their crimes from current and future wealth.’
Judge Jonathan Fuller QC, said that future sentencing will take place for the breach of bail.
During the trial in January slammed the fraudsters, telling Bournemouth Crown Court that: ‘All the money that was obtained went to fund the lifestyles and living costs of those involved.
‘Particularly in the case of the Colwells it was extravagant, high-end sports cars and the like. The two companies declared sales of £14m. The companies were in fact hollow shells.
‘No documentation exists supporting any legitimate activity at all, their sole purpose was to facilitate the fraud.’
New build homes are zero-rated, which means developers can claim back the VAT on them.
Bournemouth Crown Court heard Jamie Colwell was the ringleader of the group and was involved with both companies – Belgravia Construction South Limited and Robert Lloyd Property.
The trio used Colwell Snr’s history as a builder and Colwell Jnr’s background as a chartered surveyor to register with HMRC.
Between the two companies the three were raking in an average of £14,000 a month by claiming they had built new homes on the south coast.
In November 2017, Jamie pleaded guilty to fraud offences relating to the full amount of £965,421.
He admitted spending about £113,000 renting a property in Sandbanks as well as buying a Porsche 911 and a speedboat.
Brian pleaded guilty to acquiring criminal property to the sum of £178,487, which he used to rent a house in Bournemouth and general ‘good living’.
James pleaded guilty to obtaining payment of VAT credit in the sum of £316,335. She had previously worked in accounts with a pension company.
James, an equestrian and former dressage competitor, spent a large portion of her ill-gotten gains on stabling, saddles and vet bills for her four horses.
As well as her horses she spent £40,000 on designer clothing and £38,000 on cars, including a Mercedes.