Belfast Telegraph

Construction boss jailed over fake Iraq building project has sentence cut

A construction boss who stole more than £500,000 in a tax fraud linked to a fake building project in Iraq has had his jail sentence cut by 18 months.

Judges in the Court of Appeal ruled today that Mark McAteer's prison term should be reduced from four years to two and a half years.

The 30-year-old, formerly of Gortnarney Road, Limavady, Co Derry, will also serve a further 12 months on probation.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said: "Although the offence was dominated by greed it's not an offence that could be said in this particular case to be professionally planned."

McAteer was jailed earlier this year for VAT fraud carried out in 2009.

He had ordered equipment and consultancy services from a machinery supply company in Northern Ireland.

At the time he claimed his construction firm was building water purification plants in Basra and Mosul.

McAteer was said to have told local businesses that he did not have the cash to pay for the goods.

Instead, he asked for invoices in advance which he used to get credit letters from the Iraqi government to fund the multi-million dollar contract.

The invoices also formed part of a false VAT refund claim of £567,420.

Ruling on the appeal against sentence, Sir Declan said the fraud, involving the use of McAteer's own company, was always going to be detected.

"It had none of the hallmarks of careful planning such as in carousel frauds involving the setting up of fraudulent companies and a plan to make away with the money," the judge pointed out.

Balancing the need for a deterrent sentence against the benefits of probation for McAteer, the court held that the new term could be imposed.

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