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4 February 2010, 16:56 | Updated: 4 February 2010, 17:02
Twelve people, including two from Ipswich, have been arrested on suspicion of stealing more than £2 million in a major VAT repayment fraud.
The operation by criminal investigators from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), supported by police forces across the regions, targeted individuals and addresses in Staffordshire, Cheshire, Manchester and Suffolk.
Adrian Farley, Assistant Director of Criminal Investigation for HMRC, said:“Today’s arrests are a result of many months of investigation across the UK to unravel what is believed to be a major fraud.
“One of our key priorities is to identify the abuse of our tax systems by organised crime gangs stealing vast amounts of public money for their own gain. Working closely with other law enforcement agencies we will unravel cases of complex fraud and bring those responsible before the courts.”
Those arrested are believed to be part of an organised crime gang purporting to trade in construction industry equipment and concrete crushing machines in a version of ‘missing trader’ fraud.
Twelve search warrants were executed – eleven at residential properties and one at a business property - in Staffordshire, Cheshire, Manchester and Suffolk. Paperwork including bank accounts and computers were seized along with live ammunition, CS spray and an imitation firearm.
Arrests in today’s action include:
- Three men and one woman arrested, four residential properties searched
- Two men and one woman arrested, two residential properties searched
- Three men arrested, four residential properties searched
- One man and one woman arrested, one residential property and one business property searched
All defendants were arrested on suspicion of Conspiracy to Cheat the Revenue and Money Laundering offences under Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and are currently being questioned by HMRC criminal investigators at police stations across the UK.