Two held in £80m fraud probe

By James HoreTWO people have been arrested in Essex during a swoop on businesses as part of a crackdown on an £80million VAT money laundering ring.The money is believed to have been channelled through the bank accounts of two Chelmsford-based companies and is thought to be the proceeds of an elaborate fraud involving the sale of mobile phones and computer chips.

By James Hore

TWO people have been arrested in Essex during a swoop on businesses as part of a crackdown on an £80million VAT money laundering ring.

The money is believed to have been channelled through the bank accounts of two Chelmsford-based companies and is thought to be the proceeds of an elaborate fraud involving the sale of mobile phones and computer chips.

A 33-year-old man and a 32-year-old woman were arrested in Chelmsford during the operation in which business premises were and homes were searched in Essex, Sheffield, Nottingham and Leeds.


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They were questioned in Braintree following Tuesday's raids over alleged money laundering offences and were later released on bail pending further investigations.

A customs spokesman said: “Financial crime is certainly a very big priority for Customs and Excise.

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“Officers and investigators in the eastern region are putting a lot of effort and resources into trying to play their part in the national policy of preventing this sort of crime taking place.”

Customs have made tackling “missing trader fraud” one of its top priorities and estimate it costs the UK economy about £2.5billion a year.

It involves individuals and gangs buying goods - such as mobile phones and computer chips - from the continent VAT-free and supplying them to businesses in the UK.

Companies then sell the phones back to the continent, without payment of VAT to the UK Government and without the phones being used by a consumer.

james.hore@eadt.co.uk

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