Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Five made film to cover up tax scam

Five people are due to be convicted over a VAT scam

Fraudsters who pretended to be behind a Hollywood blockbuster were forced to hastily make a film called A Landscape Of Lies on a shoestring budget in a bid to cover up a £2.8 million tax scam.

The movie, released on DVD in 2011, included former EastEnders actor Marc Bannerman and television presenter Andrea McLean among its cast.

Five people have been convicted after pretending that unnamed Hollywood A-listers were starring 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 £19 million.

However in reality the production was a sham and a means of fraudulently claiming £1.5 million in VAT and nearly £1.3 million in film tax credit.

Five people have now been convicted over the scam - Bashar Al-Issa, 34, from Maida Vale, London; Aoife Madden, 31, from Northern Ireland; Tariq Hassan, 52, from Essex, Ian Sherwood, 53, and Osama Al Baghdady, 42, both from Manchester.

They were part of a scheme to claim £1,488,187 in VAT on work that had never been done, and another £1,289,722.50 in tax credits meant to support genuine British filmmakers.

After they were arrested, they tried to cover their tracks by shooting a film called A Landscape Of Lies on a tiny budget.

John Pointing from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said: "This gang thought they could exploit rules for genuine British filmmakers 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 - so 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 at Southwark Crown Court. They are due to be sentenced on March 25.

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