Three bogus property developers who claimed to have spent £14 million building new homes in order to recoup almost £1 million in VAT – without laying a single brick – have been jailed for fraud (Jamie Colwell: jailed for five years three months)
Three bogus property developers who claimed to have spent £14 million building new homes in order to recoup almost £1 million in VAT – without laying a single brick – have been jailed for fraud.
Jamie Colwell, his father Brian Colwell and Briony James claimed to HMRC they had spent £14m building new properties in order to recoup VAT they were entitled to.
But the new homes were never built and government officials took the trio’s word for it and paid them £965,421 over six years.
They spent the money on their luxury lifestyles that included a rented property on exclusive Sandbanks, high-performance cars such as a Porsche and Mercedes, designer clothes and a speedboat.
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.
When HMRC investigators became suspicious and looked into the group’s two bogus companies they found their ‘office’ was actually the bedroom of Brian Colwell’s house in Bournemouth, Dorset.
There they recovered fake invoices that were in a ‘higgledy piggledy’ fashion in carrier bags.
Jamie Colwell, 51, was jailed for five years and three months and his 75-year-old father received 32 months.
The pair failed to turn up at court for sentencing and a warrant has been issued for their arrest.
James, 45, was sentenced to 20 months in jail for her part.
Judge Jonathan Fuller said: ‘All the money that was obtained went to fund the lifestyles and living costs of those involved.
Jamie Colwell, his father Brian Colwell (left) and former girlfriend Briony James (right) claimed to HMRC they had spent £14m building new properties in order to recoup VAT they were entitled to (Colwell, 75, received 32 months while James, 45, was sentenced to 20 months)
‘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.
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
Tom Wilkins, prosecuting, said: ‘They set up various companies they claimed were involved in building new houses.
‘It was a very simple fraud, they had been reclaiming VAT for fictitious business expenses they had never incurred because the work had never been done.
‘The Robert Lloyd company had originally been formed for the purpose of racing motor cars, one thing that runs through the case is their love of high performance cars.
‘That’s something on which a significant proportion of the funds obtained went.
‘They bought high performance cars for their own use – Range Rovers, Porsches and the like.
‘An officer from HMRC noticed irregularities in the VAT returns submitted.
‘When officers obtained the account details they showed a huge difference between the credits into the accounts and the sales declared to HMRC.
‘Jamie and his mother lived at a rented property in Sandbanks. Clearly they, in particular, were living in some style at the time of their arrest.’
James’s former girlfriend pleaded guilty to obtaining payment of VAT credit in the sum of £316,335. She had previously worked in accounts with a pension company. As well as her horses she spent £40,000 on designer clothing and £38,000 on cars, including a Mercedes
Jamie Colwell pleaded guilty to fraud offences relating to the full amount of £965,421.
He spent about £113,000 renting a property in Sandbanks as well as buying a Porsche 911 and a speedboat.
His former girlfriend James, of Salisbury, Wiltshire, pleaded guilty to obtaining payment of VAT credit in the sum of £316,335.
She had previously worked in accounts with a pension company.
As well as her horses she spent £40,000 on designer clothing and £38,000 on cars, including a Mercedes.
Brian Colwell, of Bournemouth, 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’.
John King, defending James, said she was easily influenced by her former boyfriend.
Mr King said: ‘She had a relationship with him for 15 years but he refused to live with her. He had huge influence over her, he had control of the business.
‘She kept her life on hold for him and has been left high and dry in mid-life – declared bankrupt, no assets and living with her parents.
‘She lived in a gilded cage that had very little to it in the end.’
The Colwells were disqualified from being directors of companies for 15 years and James for five years.