VAT fraud pensioner captured on run in Dubai

Geoffrey Johnson was originally from Forfar.
Geoffrey Johnson was originally from Forfar.
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A Scot who is one of Britain’s most wanted tax fugitives - who fled the UK three years ago after leading a multi-million pound tax fraud - has been captured in 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, Gareth - who remains at large - were ordered to repay £109m worth of criminal proceeds.

Johnson was apprehended on Friday in Dubai after using a fake passport to travel from Kenya. He and his son are believed to have been working in Tanzania in recent years after fleeing the UK, before moving hundreds of miles away to Kenya.

He was returned to Britain in the early hours of this morning and appeared at Kingston Crown Court this afternoon. He was sentenced today for an additional six months for not attending his original trial and faces a total of 24 years and six months in prison.

His son, Gareth, 49, was sentenced to twelve years in prison in his absence in 2013. He did not answer bail to attend trial and is still a fugitive. He was the principal controller behind Tectonics Holdings – which played an integral role in the fraud as the money laundering arm of the operation through personal UK and offshore accounts. Johnson senior also had control of a company called Coast Logistics, which was also used in the fraud. Last year, he was issued with a confiscation order, alongside his father, for £109,203,791, to be paid immediately or a default prison sentence of 14 years to be added to his sentence.

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."

He added: “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, which operated from locations including Scotland, Cheshire, East Sussex, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, North Wales, Staffordshire 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, which were revealed to be an elaborate VAT repayment fraud.

Alison Shelton, of Staffordshire, who is currently serving a nine-year jail sentence for her part in the fraud, while Albert Amritanand, from Forfar, was sentenced to five years’ jail in 2013. He paid back £500,000 in 2015.