Film ti­tle gave away the plot

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT -

LON­DON — The clue was in the ti­tle.

In some ways A Land­scape of Lies was a typ­i­cal in­die film, with a tiny bud­get, a B-list cast and an award from an Amer­i­can film fes­ti­val.

What made it spe­cial is that it was cre­ated solely to cover up a huge tax fraud.

Five peo­ple in Bri­tain face jail sen­tences af­ter be­ing con­victed this week of at­tempt­ing to bilk the government of 2.8 mil­lion (US$4.2 mil­lion) in a moviemak­ing scam rem­i­nis­cent of Academy Award-win­ning hit Argo — with­out the heroic hostage res­cue.

Pros­e­cu­tors and tax au­thor­i­ties say the fraud­sters claimed to be pro­duc­ing a made-in-Bri­tain movie with un­named A-list ac­tors and a 19-mil­lion bud­get sup­plied by a Jor­da­nian firm.

In fact, of­fi­cials say, the project was a sham, set up to claim al­most 1.5 mil­lion in goods and ser­vices tax for work that had not been done, as well as 1.3 mil­lion un­der a government pro­gram that al­lows film­mak­ers to claim back up to 25 per cent of their ex­pen­di­ture as tax re­lief.

Bri­tain’s tax agency, Her Majesty’s Rev­enue and Cus­toms, said that the film­mak­ers had submitted pa­per­work and al­ready re­ceived 1.7 mil­lion when che­ques re­vealed “that the work had not been done and most of the so-called sup­pli­ers and film stu­dios had never heard of the gang.”

The self-de­scribed movie pro­duc­ers were ar­rested on sus­pi­cion of tax fraud in April 2011 — and de­cided their best shot at avoid­ing crim­i­nal charges was to hastily make a film.

They hired a true-crime writer to write and di­rect A Land­scape of Lies, de­scribed in its In­ter­net Movie Data­base en­try as a crime thriller about a Gulf War veteran out for jus­tice for a mur­dered com­rade.

A Land­scape of Lies was re­leased straight to DVD in Bri­tain in 2011. But it did gar­ner some fans, win­ning a com­men­da­tion called a Sil­ver Ace award at last year’s Las Ve­gas Film Fes­ti­val.

That wasn’t enough to de­ter the tax au­thor­i­ties. Five pro­duc­ers from var­i­ous parts of Bri­tain — Bashar Al-Issa, Aoife Mad­den, Tariq Has­san, Ian Sher­wood and Osama Al Bagh­dady — were con­victed Tues­day of con­spir­acy to cheat the pub­lic rev­enue at Lon­don’s South­wark Crown Court. They will be sen­tenced March 25.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.