The man behind a £54m VAT fraud gang has been sentenced to 15 years in prison - the longest ever UK sentence for such a crime.
Emmanuel Hening, who has dual French and Belgian nationality, was found guilty on three counts of missing trader fraud at Worcester Crown Court. He was extradited from France in December 2005.
The judge described 33 year old Hening, who is based in Luxembourg, as the "guiding hand" behind the eight person gang which has received sentences totalling 38.5 years. A 54 year old woman from Birmingham is still awaiting sentence.
Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said in a statement: "The phones were purportedly imported into the UK VAT-free by various companies set up by Hening. He then sold the phones on paper charging VAT that was never paid over to HMRC. These companies then went 'missing'. The phones were then 'sold' down the line to various 'buffer' traders before they were exported back to Hening. Each company made an agreed profit margin on the phones. The companies were based in the West Midlands, Lancashire and the Isle of Man."
Customs began investigating in 2000 and tracked links between companies in France, Luxembourg and the UK.
Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs has begun proceedings to confiscate the assets and earnings made by the gang.
The Customs' press release is here.®