Used proceeds to fund lavish lifestyle
Four men found guilty of a £30 million mobile phone VAT fraud have been remanded in prison pending sentencing. The four ran Ramsgate, Kent-based Amber Communications Management Ltd (ACM) which imported mobile phones and computer chips from Europe and the United States and then sold them on via a contrived supply chain before finally exporting them to Switzerland or Dubai. Traders involved in the chain, whose own business were often set up to effect the fraud, invariably failed to pay the VAT they had been charged on the original supply.
The scam worked by Amber acquiring the phones and chips in Europe and the USA at zero rate VAT, then selling them through its contrived web of distributors who then closed down.
Amber would then claim a repayment from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) on the ‘unpaid’ VAT- running into millions.
Directors of Amber Brian Murray, 49, and Ross Bell, 42, both from Thanet in Kent, along with Lonnie Smith, 52, from Ramsgate and Londoner Garry Salter, 43, were all convicted at Kingston Crown Court of fraud.
All four had denied cheating the public revenue and money-laundering offences during their trial, but were found guilty by a jury.
The court had heard how the fraudsters had sought to rake in as much as £30 million from their activities.
However, they had used their ill-gotten gains to fund lavish purchases including high-end vehicles, a boat and property in Dubai.
But their greed had been curbed when customs intervened to prevent Amber claiming VAT repayments worth over £18 million.
Sentencing will be in April.
Set up in 2004, Amber describes itself in Companies House records as providing ‘business support’, having previously changed its name from Amber Car Management.
Footnote: It appears than local Thanet MP, Roger Gale, accidentally intervened on Amber’s behalf to try to get a VAT refund. See here.