Published: 14:34, 16 August 2018
| Updated: 15:24, 16 August 2018
A tax consultant who stole £6.9 million from workers’ pockets has been jailed for nine and a-half-years.
David Hughes, known as Mike Huges, was found guilty of three counts of conspiracy to cheat the public revenue after the elaborate scam.
With his co-conspirator Aquil Ahmed, they operated more than 10 companies in the UK, Belize and Gibraltar to launder money through various bank accounts.
Formerly of Spendiff in Cooling, he was co-director of Keepers accountancy and taxation practice based in Rochester.
They employed Christopher Azzopardi to operate payroll services for clients, who were charged VAT which was never paid to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
Workers at Leaner Logistics Limited, a construction services company ran by Victor Shearer, were the first victims. Several others companies were later added to the scheme.
The money was channelled through Gibraltar, the Channel Islands, the UAE, USA, Turkey and various property transactions.
In September 2011, Hughes left the UK to travel around Chile and Dubai before starting his new life in North Cyprus.
He was arrested at Heathrow Airport in January 2018 when he arrived on a flight from Istanbul.
Today, he was jailed for nine and a half years.
Ahmed, Azzopardi and Shearer were jailed for a total of 19 years in October 2016.
HMRC will seek to recover some of the money through confiscation.
Alison Chipperton, assistant director of the Fraud Investigation Service at HMRC, said:“Hughes and his criminal fraternity were driven by greed, abusing systems that are designed to ensure workers are paid correctly and taxes paid to HMRC.
“Hughes deliberately fled the UK and moved to a country without a UK extradition treaty in an attempt to evade justice.
"He was arrested as soon as he returned to the UK, and is now paying the price for his crimes.
“They were all professionals who broke the law, but as a tax consultant and former Inland Revenue employee, Hughes’ role as the criminal mastermind is even more deplorable.
"Tax evasion isn’t a victimless crime, it is theft from public services used by us all. If you suspect tax fraud, please report it online or call the HMRC Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”