Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 December 2014

Five jailed over fake film tax scam

A gang of fraudsters pretended to be making a multimillion-pound Hollywood blockbuster as part of a complex scam
A gang of fraudsters pretended to be making a multimillion-pound Hollywood blockbuster as part of a complex scam

A gang who pretended to be making a £19.6 million Hollywood blockbuster as part of a complex scam aimed at falsely claiming VAT repayments and film tax credits has been jailed.

Fraudsters created a chain of companies to make false applications for VAT repayments and claim film tax credits used to encourage the British film industry, the court was told.

Bashar Al-Issa, 34, of Rodney Court, Maida Vale, London, described as the architect of the fraud, was jailed for six and a half years by Judge Juliet May, sitting at Southwark Crown Court in central London.

Actor Aoife Madden, 31, a British and Irish national, of Maclise Road, west London - said to have submitted a "pack of lies" to inspectors about the project - was sentenced to four years and eight months.

Two other defendants - Tariq Hassan, 52, a Pakistani national of Willingale Road, Loughton, Essex, and Osama Al Baghdady, 51, an Iraqi national of Lowther Road, Crumpsall, Manchester, received four-year jail sentences. A fifth defendant, architect Ian Sherwood, 53, of Esher Drive, Sale, Manchester, who allowed his offices to be used for the fraud, was sentenced to three and a half years.

The court heard that Madden, said by the prosecution to have played an important organisational role in the fraud, pleaded guilty at the start of the trial to two charges of conspiracy to cheat the public revenue between April 2010 and April 2011 related to VAT repayments and film tax credits.

Al-Issa was convicted on both charges after a trial. Hassan was convicted of one charge - conspiracy to cheat the revenue in relation to film tax credits. Al Baghdady and Sherwood were convicted of one charge of conspiracy to cheat the revenue in relation to VAT repayments.

Under the scam, fraudulent claims were submitted or were in the process of being prepared for submission totalling £2.78 million - £1.5 million in VAT and nearly £1.3 million in film tax credits. The court was told that £796,318 was received from the first false VAT repayment. Documents were submitted claiming that millions of pounds of worth of work had been paid for on the film, the court was told.

Judge May, sentencing the fraudsters, described the scam as having been based upon an "entirely bogus film project". She said; "The information provided to the VAT inspectors was uniformly false and misleading and chosen to make it look as though a £19.6 million budget film was under way."

The court was told that all that was produced for the film A Landscape Of Lives was a test shoot in Madden's home resulting in about seven minutes of film of "unusable quality".

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