A former South Yorkshire policeman has been jailed for 10 years and three months for his part in the UK’s largest ever VAT fraud.
Nigel Cranswick, a 47-year-old former police officer, claimed his new business, Ideas 2 Go Ltd, had sold more than six million mobile phones and had a turnover of more than £2.4 billion after just eight months of trading.
Using details from hijacked or fictitious companies, Mr Cranswick, along with five accomplices, produced thousands of invoices for sales of mobile phones and computer software – many of which had never even been manufactured – producing billions of pounds in fabricated turnover.
Mr Cranswick claimed that in the first six weeks of trading Ideas 2 Go had turned over more than £527m. Incredibly, the company had “traded” over £47m before it got round to opening a company bank account.
The scam generated around £330m in fraudulent VAT repayments.
Judge Forster, sitting at Newcastle Crown Court, said: “The figures in this case are astonishing, they reveal the blatant nature of the fraud.”
Mr Cranswick, now known as the “singing policeman” after videos of him performing his own songs and those of his indie band “Not The Police” on YouTube came to light, went from “rags to riches” in a matter of weeks.
After being heavily in debt during his working years, Cranswick retired and, just a few weeks after Ideas 2 Go Ltd had begun trading, began to splash out on expensive home improvements, private tuition for his children, and a luxury apartment in Marbella.
The court heard that “company director” Cranswick was not the mastermind of the fraud, but had been recruited to play his role in an MTIC (missing trader intra-community) fraud, also known as carousel fraud, by others who did not appear in court.
Also sentenced after admitting conspiracy to cheat the Revenue were Thomas Murphy, 27, of Dinnington, who was jailed for four and a half years; Cranswick’s brother-in-law, Darren Smyth, 42, from Beech Road, Maltby, and Brian Olive, 56, from Buttermere Close, Doncaster, who were sentenced to three years and four months each; and former housing officer Andrew Marsh, 28, from Sheffield, who was jailed for two years and eight months.
Cranswick’s 44-year-old sister, Clare Reid, married to Smyth, was handed a nine-month sentence, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work after admitting two counts of false accounting.
HMRC Exchequer Secretary, David Gauke said: “This sentence shows that those who try to commit fraud need to think again – HMRC will find you and the courts will punish you. The additional £917m we have invested in HMRC will see more cases like this successfully prosecuted, sending a clear and powerful message.”
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