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24/01/2018

Tax Fraud Trio Sentenced For Stealing £1m In VAT Repayments

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Two men and a women have been prosecuted after stealing almost £1 million in VAT repayments for building houses that never existed.

Sandbanks resident Jamie Colwell, 51, his father Brian Colwell, 74, of Bournemouth, and Jamie's former partner Briony James, 45, of Salisbury, were sentenced to a total of nearly 10 years in prison at Bournemouth Crown Court on Tuesday, 22 January.

The trio claimed to have spent £14m building new homes, yet an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) revealed not a single brick had been laid.

Jamie Colwell, the ringleader, set up Robert Lloyd Properties Ltd and Belgravia Construction Services (South) Ltd to carry out the fraud. His father Brian Colwell, a retired builder, was a director of both companies while Jamie's former partner Briony James was a director of Robert Lloyd Properties. Jamie Colwell also pretended to be another director, Martin Johnstone.

The two businesses were used to fraudulently claim VAT repayments totalling £965,897 between February 2009 and May 2015. Investigations revealed the companies' bank accounts were simply used to fund the criminals' lifestyles.

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Jamie Colwell used £113,000 to rent a Sandbanks property and pay household expenses, while also spending 64,000 on cars including a pre-owned Porsche 911 as well as owning a speedboat.

Brian Colwell used the money to rent a four-bedroom Bournemouth home and on general good living, while Briony James spent more than £100,000 of the criminal funds on stabling horses, £40,000 on designer clothing and shopping, and £38,000 on cars including a Mercedes.

Jamie Colwell pleaded guilty to the full fraud of £965,897. Brian Colwell admitted defrauding £178,487 relating to Belgravia Construction Services (South) Ltd, and Briony James admitted defrauding £316,335 as Robert Lloyd Properties Ltd.

At Bournemouth Crown Court, Jamie Colwell was sentenced to five years and three months imprisonment, Brian Colwell was jailed for 32 months and Briony James was given a 20 month sentence. Both Jamie and Brian Colwell absconded and were sentenced in their absence. Warrants have been issued for their arrest.

Richard Wilkinson, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: "These criminals set up sham companies solely to pocket public money to fund their lifestyles, blatantly stealing almost £1 million from the public services we all rely on.

"Anyone who has any information on the whereabouts of Jamie and Brian Colwell can get in contact with us at our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887 or call police on 101.

"HMRC will continue to pursue those criminals who attack the tax system, and look to recover the proceeds of their crimes from current and future wealth."

Image: Jamie Colwell was sentenced to five years and three months imprisonment.

(LM/MH)

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