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Conmen claimed Dubai backing in £2m swindle

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: May 19, 2014

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A CONMAN from South Derbyshire who was part of an audacious £2 million VAT fraud plot has been jailed for five years.

Phillip Charman fooled companies into thinking he and two accomplices had £15 million at their disposal, ready to be ploughed into advertising tourism in Dubai.

But their company was a sham, with no money behind it, and was set up purely to commit fraud, Derby Crown Court heard.

Once the unwitting businesses agreed to sell advertising space, having been duped into believing they were dealing with a company backed by Dubai’s Department of Tourism, the conmen, including Charman, 32, of Fairfield Crescent, Newhall, requested invoices that remained unpaid but were then used to support the fraudulent VAT claim totalling nearly £2 million.

Firms were conned by highly sophisticated pitches from the group, the court heard, which also included Steven Key and his son Jack, both from Tamworth, who were also jailed.

But the web of lies began to unravel when HMRC became suspicious that the newly registered firm, which was called Wilnecote Hall Marketing (WHM) Ltd, submitted a huge VAT repayment claim in April 2011, despite having an estimated turnover of only £1 million a year.

Investigations revealed the Dubai Government’s Department of Tourism had never heard of or dealt with WHM and had no knowledge of the £15 million advertising contract.

HMRC assistant director Colin Booker said: “The group hoodwinked honest companies into thinking they were genuine agents for the Dubai tourism industry.

“The three men were utterly determined to commit a huge fraud, starting with their initial repayment claim. They had not counted on HMRC’s diligence and our officers set in motion a criminal investigation that identified the full scale of the lies.”

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