Dis­abled man had role in £1m blue badge tax scam

Macclesfield Express - - FRONT PAGE -

A POYN­TON man was among four dis­abled peo­ple who took part in a tax scam worth al­most £1 mil­lion.

The quar­tet used their blue badges to dodge VAT on lux­ury cars which were then sold on at a profit, a court heard.

The plot ex­ploited a law al­low­ing dis­abled peo­ple to buy ve­hi­cles VAT free if they are adapted for per­sonal use. Martin Burke, 51,

of Park Av­enue in Poyn­ton, is among the first de­fen­dants to be pros­e­cuted in a case like this – even though this scam is thought to have cost HMRC mil­lions na­tion­wide.

Be­tween them, the four de­fen­dants bought nearly 100 cars in 2007, know­ing they would be sold on, Manch­ester Crown Court heard.

All the cars were high end – in­clud­ing a £56,000 Jaguar XK Sport, a £127,000 Bent­ley Con­ti­nen­tal GTC con­vert­ible, a £130,000 Bent­ley GTC and a £47,000 Audi Q7.

The de­fen­dants were funded by other crim­i­nals who used dis­abled buy­ers to pur­chase 122 cars worth more than £6m. In do­ing so they evaded VAT to­talling £930,492.

Ray­mond Gor­don, 57, Ries­ling Drive, Kirkby, Mersey­side, Mar­garet Lunt, 68, of Suf­folk Lane, Ch­ester, and Arthur Jack­son, 62, from Sale, were all con­victed of be­ing part of the scam.

Gor­don was sent down for 18 months, while the other three who had ad­mit­ted con­spir­acy to evade VAT were given sus­pended sen­tences.

All the cars were sold on – of­ten within days – mak­ing more than £370,000 in less than two years.

The de­fen­dants them­selves made up to £500 per pur­chase – al­though Lunt’s so­lic­i­tor in­sisted she was paid only ‘ex­penses’ for trav­el­ling around the coun­try.

Nick Clarke QC, pros­e­cut­ing, said the scam worked on the ba­sis that blue badge hold­ers are let off pay­ing VAT, set at 17.5pc in 2007, as long as the ve­hi­cles are for per­sonal use. Us­ing cash de­posited into their ac­counts or paid di­rectly by the scam’s lead­ers, the de­fen­dants picked up top end cars from deal­ers. Prov­ing their le­git­i­mate dis­abled sta­tus, they signed to say the cars were for per­sonal use.

The ruse was com­pleted when deal­ers were asked to make slight adap­ta­tions to the car – like a sim­ple £38 change to the steer­ing wheel which could be eas­ily re­versed.

By tar­get­ing lux­ury ve­hi­cles the ring­leaders, who can­not be named for le­gal rea­sons, rapidly net­ted wads of cash.

The court heard how Gor­don, from Mersey­side, picked up a to­tal of 52 cars worth more than £2.5m.

De­fend­ing Burke, Malina Ben­net said the scam was a ’wide­spread prac­tice’ which her client be­lieved to be a ‘loop­hole in the law’.

Placed ‘lower down the food chain’, he picked up the cars us­ing his dis­abil­ity sta­tus but he did not han­dle any money, she said, and was work­ing on pay­ing back the money to HMRC.

Af­ter the hear­ing, Jack­son and Burke apol­o­gised.

Burke said: “I’m very very sorry.

“I feel so stupid. I was duped.”

He said he’d been pay­ing back the evaded VAT to the HMRC.

Gor­don, of Ries­ling Drive, Kirkby, Mersey­side, who suf­fers from ail­ments in­clud­ing acute re­nal fail­ure, gout, and a heart con­di­tion, was jailed for 18 months.

Lunt, of Suf­folk Lane, Ch­ester, who suf­fers with kid­ney fail­ure and Type 2 di­a­betes, was jailed for 12 months sus­pended for two years. Gor­don rubbed her shoul­der as her sen­tence was read out.

Jack­son, whose ail­ments in­clude arthri­tis and cal­ci­fi­ca­tion of the spine, of Stam­ford Street, Sale, was jailed for eight months sus­pended for two years.

While Burke, of Park Av­enue Poyn­ton, who has nu­mer­ous health is­sues and cares for his el­derly mother, was jailed for six months sus­pended for two years.

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