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