A FRAUDSTER who became one of Britain’s most wanted fugitives has been jailed for more than 11 years for a multi-million pound tax scam.
Michael Voudouri, 46, of Bridge of Allan, Stirling, pleaded guilty in October 2012 to laundering £11.6 million through foreign and domestic banks, company accounts and individuals between 2001 and 2004.
But he failed to show up for sentencing in a Scottish court the following month and it emerged that he had fled to northern Cyprus.
He remained in the republic until he was tracked down, extradited and returned to Scotland last month.
He was jailed for a total of 11 years and six months when he appeared at the High Court in Edinburgh yesterday.
Voudouri was imprisoned for ten years for the charges relating to what the judge described as a “complex money-laundering operation”. He was also jailed for an additional 18 months for failing to appear in court in 2012.
Judge Lord Tyre told Voudouri, who has a previous conviction for VAT fraud: “In my view, the offences which you committed fall towards the upper end of the scale of seriousness, both in relation to the very large sums involved and in relation to the complexity and sophistication of the laundering arrangements which you were responsible for directing, along with others.”
Voudouri was initially charged with laundering more than £48 million but ultimately pleaded guilty to charges relating to sums of over £10.3 million and £1.2 million.
His lawyer, Aamer Anwar, said he had now been instructed to lodge an appeal against the conviction.
The court heard the charges arose from an investigation by the tax authorities of a suspected “carousel” VAT fraud being perpetrated through a company called Q-Tech Distribution Ltd, which had premises in Glasgow.
Voudouri faced a maximum penalty of 14 years for the laundering offences. The court heard he was previously jailed for four years in 2004 for VAT fraud.
Voudouri admitted a single charge under the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act over his failure to appear in court to face justice in 2012.
The court also imposed a financial reporting order (FRO) against Voudouri for a 15-year period, a move which helps the authorities monitor the financial affairs of an accused after conviction.
Lindsey Miller, procurator fiscal for organised crime and counter-terrorism, said: “After an extremely complex investigation, we have seen justice delivered to an individual who participated in money-laundering on an industrial scale and who has gone to great lengths to escape the Scottish authorities.
“The criminal investigation into Voudouri’s money-laundering was on a global scale, with the Crown’s economic crime unit gathering evidence from companies and financial institutions in the UK, Greece, Cyprus, Switzerland, the United States and the Virgin Islands.”
Speaking on his client’s behalf outside court, Mr Anwar said he would be appealing against the conviction and raised questions about the actions of HMRC in this case. He called on the Crown to explain “why 19 key individuals involved in the tax fraud have never faced justice”.