Between them, the 17 men avoided paying nearly £643,000 of income tax and national insurance. They were served with prison sentences of up to two years, although several had their sentences suspended.
Sixteen of the 17 were tried between April and July 2015 but the final case was heard just this week. Aleksandr Gebski, a 55-year-old electrician based in Loughborough, pleaded guilty to the fraudulent evasion of £28,196.36 of income tax and national insurance between April 2008 and February 2015. He was sentenced to 21 months in prison, suspended for two years, when he appeared at Leicester Crown Court on Monday 22nd August 2016. He was also placed on a four-month curfew and ordered to pay £700 costs.
The fraud came to light when HMRC’s Project Dobbin investigation identified a trend in the financial accounting of local tradesmen, with many of them known to each other. They all worked for the same company on a self-employed basis and were paid monthly, but failed to register with HMRC for self-assessment, instead keeping the money they should have handed over in income tax and national insurance. The company was not implicated in the fraud.
Brett Wilkinson, assistant director at the HMRC’s fraud investigation service, said: “This was a group of individuals who decided to keep taxpayers’ money that should have been funding vital public services. As self-employed traders in the construction industry, they believed it was a quick way to make easy cash, with little risk of getting caught - but they couldn’t have been more wrong.
“This last prosecution brings to an end a scam extending across the Leicestershire area and shows HMRC is levelling the playing field for honest tradesmen. The sentences passed down should be a warning to anyone thinking about committing tax fraud – it’s a criminal offence and we won’t hesitate to use our full range of powers to ensure that nobody is beyond the law.”