Belfast Telegraph

Tearful Northern Ireland director sentenced for £184k VAT fraud

The director of a Northern Ireland haulage company who committed VAT fraud has been given a suspended prison sentence at Dungannon Crown Court.

Janet Lyons (48) of Crevenagh Road, Omagh pleaded guilty to committing the offence between September 2012 and January 2014. The total loss to HMRC was £184,185.

The court heard Lyons took over directorship of the company – Lyons Haulage Limited - in 2012. Her husband had previously held the position but he was disqualified as a director in 2008 for a period of eight years.

Lyons had previously been the company secretary and had very limited involvement in the business. On becoming director she continued to have no involvement in the daily running and her husband remained the boss.

Although she covered a period of maternity leave in the office, Lyons had no role in filing VAT returns, as this was carried out by another person.

Concerns were raised when VAT returns were submitted suggesting there was no business in or out of the company.

This occurred despite customers continuing to be charged 20% VAT on invoices.

A prosecuting barrister, who described the matter as “neglect rather than deliberate” said overall £380,000 in unpaid VAT is owned by the company, of which £184,185 relates to Lyons’ term as director.

Defence counsel said his client is attempting to gather funds toward paying off the loss. He further accepted she had sent out company invoices but insisted she had no role in filing VAT returns.

Lyons also accepted “benefitting from the lifestyle afford”.

The defence pointed out at interview Lyons had said, “I let him (her husband) do it all”

Judge Stephen Fowler QC commented, “This case is characterised by the defendant taking over headship of the company during her husband’s disqualification as a director. She unfortunately allowed herself to be used.”

Whilst Judge Fowler said the custody threshold had been met due to the amounts of money involved, he decided to suspend a 12 month prison sentence for three years.

Lyons, who broke down in tears several times during the hearing, was also disqualified from being a director of any company for five years.

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