Tax Fraud Fugitive Deported From Dubai After Fake British Passport Exposed

13 July 2017, 19:15 | Updated: 13 July 2017, 19:17


One of Britain's most wanted tax fraud fugitives, who fled the UK in July 2014 to avoid prison, has been deported from Dubai after being caught travelling with a fake British passport.

Geoffrey Winston Johnson, 74, originally from Forfar, Angus, played a leading role in an 18-strong crime gang involved in a complex VAT fraud.

He was sentenced to 24 years in prison in his absence and both he and his son, who is still on the run, were ordered to repay £109 million worth of criminal proceeds, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said.

Johnson was apprehended on Friday July 7 in Dubai after using a fake passport to travel from Kenya, where he had been lying low.

HMRC said that Johnson was returned to the UK in the early hours of Thursday and appeared at Kingston Crown Court in the afternoon, where he was sentenced to an additional six months for not attending his original trial.

He now faces a total of 24 years and six months in prison.

Simon York, director of the Fraud Investigation Service at HMRC, said: ''We've been pursuing Johnson from the day he decided to flee the UK.

''Despite him taking audacious measures to evade capture, we tracked him across the globe and he is now back to begin a long spell in prison.

''This sophisticated fraud was outright theft of money intended for important public services and it is right that he now pays the price for that crime.

''Getting him back to face justice is testament to the hard work and professionalism of HMRC investigators, who uncovered and investigated his crime and successfully tracked him down with the help of the Dubai authorities.

''Johnson is the sixth tax fugitive we have recovered from overseas this year alone. HMRC will always relentlessly pursue tax criminals and we are determined to ensure nobody is beyond our reach.''

The gang, based in Cheshire, East Sussex, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, North Wales, Staffordshire, Scotland and Spain, set up a number of businesses claiming to be legitimately importing and selling mobile phones.

They hid their fraud behind a complex web of transactions but HMRC investigators discovered it was all an elaborate VAT repayment fraud.

HMRC uncovered a series of complex transactions which the gang used to launder stolen money through bank accounts in the UK and further afield, including through Andorra, Dubai, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Portugal and the US.

Geoffrey Johnson was sentenced to ten years in prison in his absence in 2014.

His son Gareth, 49, also formerly of Forfar, Angus, was sentenced to 12 years in prison in his absence in 2013.

In March 2016, they received a confiscation order for more than £109 million. As they didn't pay this, they received an additional prison sentence of 14 years which was added to their original sentences, HMRC said.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Gareth Johnson is asked to contact the HMRC hotline on 0800 788 887.