A FORMER South Yorkshire police officer has been jailed for more than 10 years for an attempted £330 million VAT fraud - the largest of its kind in the UK.
Nigel Cranswick, aged 47, served as a police officer between 1997 and 2005 until he set up Ideas 2 Go Ltd.
He used the business as the front for his VAT scam by claiming the business sold more than six million mobile phones and had a turnover of more than £2.4 billion in just eight months.
The former policeman and five others used details from hijacked or fictitious companies to produce thousands of invoices for sales of mobile phones and computer software, producing billions of pounds in fabricated turnover, which generated around £330 million in fraudulent VAT repayments.
Cranswick - the ringleader - and his gang invented more than 6,000 fake business transactions in an attempt to make the VAT repayments appear legitimate.
But the scam was identified by HM Revenue & Customs officials who noticed alleged sales for more than 50,000 mobile phones which had not been manufactured at that point.
Cranswick, of Danby Road, Kiveton Park, Rotherham, quit his job as a serving policeman and began splashing out on extravagant purchases, made lavish improvements to his home, rented a luxury apartment in the Spanish town of Marbella and paid for private schooling and tennis lessons for his children.
He claimed that in the first six weeks of trading Ideas 2 Go, which was run from Dinnington Business Centre in Dinnington, turned over more than £527 million.
HM Revenue & Customs’ Assistant Director for Criminal Investigation Paul Rooney said: “As a police officer Cranswick knew full well that he was breaking the law, yet, motivated by greed, he chose to overlook it for the opportunity of making what he wrongly assumed would be easy money.
“He now has to pay a very high price for his poor judgement and lack of integrity.This was a sophisticated fraud designed to steal hundreds of millions of pounds of tax.”
Sentencing the gang, Judge Brian Forster said: “This was an unprecedented attack on the public revenue. The figures in this case were astonishing and revealed the blatant nature of the fraud.”
Cranswick was jailed for 10 years and three months after pleading guilty to conspiracy to cheat the public revenue.
Exchequer Secretary, David Gauke said: “This Government will not tolerate dishonest people stealing public money. This sentence shows that those who try to commit fraud need to think again – HMRC will find you and the courts will punish you.”
Four others involved in the scam pleaded guilty to the same charge.
Thomas John Murphy, 27, a former removal man from Sycamore Avenue, Creswell, Worksop, was jailed for four and a half years. He was a director of the company and withdrew more than £77,000 in cash from ATM machines.
Darren Smyth, 42, of Beech Road, Maltby, who is the partner of Cranswick’s sister Clare Reid, was sentenced to three years and four months behind bars. He was Company Secretary and a director and produced falsified hand written ledgers and had substantial amounts of cash passing through his personal bank accounts.
Andrew Marsh, 29, Church Street, Wales, Rotherham, was jailed for two years and eight months. The former council housing officer was also Company Secretary and involved in financial transfers.
Brian Olive, 56, of Buttermere Close, Carcroft, Doncaster, was locked up for three years and four months.
The former railway trackman was a director and produced false invoices and made illegal money transfers.
Cranswick’s sister, Clare Reid, was an administrator and was sentenced to nine months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months after admitting two charges of false accounting.
She will have to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work in the community.