Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Northern Ireland actress at centre of film bid to scam VAT man

Aoife Madden
Aoife Madden

An actress from Northern Ireland was the mastermind behind a Hollywood blockbuster that never existed as she tried to defraud the taxpayer out of millions of pounds.

 

Redhead Aoife Madden (31) was part of a criminal gang behind a sham movie project called, appropriately, A Landscape Of Lies.

The fraudsters aimed to pocket £1.5m in VAT and nearly £1.3m in film tax credit meant to support genuine British film-makers.

They took in £1m before tax inspectors became suspicious.

To cover their tracks after they were arrested, producer Madden was forced to quickly cobble together a script and put out a crime thriller on a shoestring budget.

A Landscape Of Lies, released on DVD in 2011, starred former EastEnders actor Marc Bannerman and Loose Women star Andrea McLean.

In the original plot, the gang of five, including Newry-born Madden, had pretended that unnamed Hollywood A-listers would star in a multi-million pound production that would be shot in the UK.

They said that a Jordanian company was backing the film to the tune of £19m.

However, the production was a sham and a means of fraudulently claiming for millions in tax breaks.

Convicted over the scam alongside Madden at Southwark Crown Court in London were Bashar Al-Issa (34), from Maida Vale, London; Tariq Hassan (52), from Essex; Ian Sherwood (53) and Osama Al Baghdady (42), both from Manchester.

John Pointing from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said: “This gang thought they could exploit rules for genuine British film-makers and thieve from the public purse for their own gain.

“They were wrong, as HMRC will not stand by and let that happen.

“Falsely claiming VAT that is not due is illegal. We are pleased that instead of this film flop going straight to DVD, these small-screen Z-listers could go straight to jail.”

Al-Issa was convicted of two counts of conspiracy to cheat the public revenue and the others of one count of that offence each.

Madden, who pleaded to two conspiracy charges before the others were found guilty, has now become the first person convicted for defrauding Government support for film-makers.

All five are due to be sentenced later this month on March 25.

Background

Aoife Madden was educated at Sacred Heart Grammar School, Newry, before an acting career that would see her star alongside Oscar winner Holly Hunter (below). She played the lead role in Martin McDonagh’s The Lieutenant Of Inishmore with the RSC, according to her entry on the Internet Movie Database. From there she starred alongside Hunter on the West End in By The Bog Of Cats. She was cast in the ITV production of The Time Of Your Life, and the feature film The Last Drop.

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