Property developer jailed for £25m VAT fraud

A Middlesex man who evaded £25m in tax by submitting false VAT repayment claims for 15 different companies has been jailed for eight and a half years after an investigation by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

Charles Victor Scarrott (61) who was the sole director of 15 property development companies, pleaded guilty to 15 counts of cheating the revenue at Kingston Crown Court and was sentenced to eight and a half years on each of the counts to run concurrently.

The investigation uncovered evidence that between 2003 and 2008, Scarrott submitted 178 fraudulent repayment claims totalling more than £25m. He provided false purchase invoices, bank statements and other business records to support the claims and used the proceeds of his crime to purchase luxury items which included:

  • £1m penthouse in Teddington, Middlesex
  • £500,000 holiday home in Dorset
  • Flats for his two children
  • £36,000 attending sporting events
  • £42,000 on private school fees
  • £40,000 on dental work
  • Over £80,000 on holidays
  • Maserati luxury car

When passing sentence, His Honour Judge Hopmeir said: “You played with high stakes, you have now lost and must pay the price. Those that cheat the Revenue cause direct and indirect damage to the community. Those that pay their taxes are effectively victims of those like you that cheat the system. As a result of careful and conscientious work by customs officers, your fraud has been detected.”

John Cooper, Assistant Director of Criminal Investigation for HMRC said:

“Scarrott stole from the pockets of innocent people and deprived the nation of vital funds needed for public services whilst funding his own extravagant lifestyle by claiming fraudulent VAT refunds. The sentence Scarrott received yesterday will act as a deterrent to anyone considering carrying out this type of crime. HMRC investigators will look to recover the profits made from these illegal activities.”

Confiscation of assets is being sought.

Festival Goers Urged to Check Home Insurance Policy

With the Music Festival season upon us… Download, and the Isle of White festival’s have already been and gone. But fear not still to come are Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds, and V festival!

Swinton Insurance is offering a word of warning for festival goers to make sure they have their personal possessions covered on their home insurance policy.

Swinton, the UK’s leading high street retailer of home insurance, surveyed 2,200 customers and found that 37% of regular Festival goers take valuable possessions to festivals but only 11% of this percentage would make sure their items were insured.

Swinton also found that just over 7% of festival goers had had items stolen from their tents and campervans. A further 11% had lost or damaged items themselves whilst camping at festivals.

As theft, loss and damage of possessions is common at festivals, Swinton is advising customers to check what items are currently covered on their contents insurance policy before they take their valuables away. If customers do require any additional cover for personal items, they can easily add them to their existing home insurance policy.

Steve Chelton, Insurance Development Manager at Swinton said, “It’s important that festival goers try and be on their guard for opportunistic thieves who, unfortunately, target these sorts of events. Tents are often left unguarded for long periods of time, so we advise people to keep valuables on them at all times. We also advise adding any valuable possessions to their home insurance policy if they plan to take them to festivals.”


Claim Back Bank Charges And Mis-Sold PPI To Pay For Misused Mobile Phone Bills

New research has revealed that many Brits are misusing their mobile phone deals and in fact are losing out hundreds of pounds a year.

Findings by Billmonitor, a price comparison calculator site, show that the majority of British people are wasting their prized money by being on the wrong mobile phone deal or underusing their mobile plans.

By claiming back bank charges and mis-sold payment protection insurance with the help of Claims Management Specialists, this can help pay towards the costly monthly mobile phone bills. Win back thousands of pounds like many individuals across the UK are doing; which will definitely cover the expensive expenditure.

The average person spends £439 in 12 months on their mobile phone; and further findings reveal that three in four people are blowing away on average £200 every year simply by being on the wrong mobile phone deal.

The survey, which analysed more than 28,000 phone bills, showed that more than £5 billion is being wasted per year. So help relieve the finances and pay for your expensive mobile phone by claiming back money from mis-sold ppi and bank charges.

The study showed that the biggest issue was people paying for contracts that offered them more free minutes than they used so in effect they were wasting money. Also, a substantial number of Brits were underestimating their phone usage and therefore going over their limits and being billed hefty charges.

However, these people are not switching plans due to confusion about companies and availability and it is no surprise seeing as there are currently more than eight million various payment plans and mobile phone deals on offer.

Greece and Portugal downgraded

Standard and Poor’s has downgraded Greece and Portugal’s credit rating after further debt worries.

The ratings agency downgraded the debt-stricken countries on the risk their debts to a new European bailout fund would be repaid before bond holders.

Their downgrade left Portugal’s rating one notch above junk and Greece’s creditworthiness below that of Egypt.

This turn in fortune for the two countries, two of the weakest in the euro zone, has sent their borrowing costs sharply higher as lenders demanded a higher rate of return for buying government bonds.

Portugal’s rating was cut by one notch to BBB-, having slashed its rating last week after Lisbon’s government fell.

S&P said the downgrades came after a new euro zone debt rescue system was agreed to by European leaders at a summit last week.

The European Union’s bailout fund will be replaced with the European Stability Mechanism in 2013.

Frank Gill, S&P analyst, said: “Our view is that this really is a game changer.

“We do think it is clearly negative for holders of commercial debt, that is our view, that it will weigh on countries’ capacity to serve their commercial debt,” he said.

The downgrade of Portugal added to Lisbon’s economic problems, just as the Bank of Portugal warned the country may need substantial new austerity measures to ensure it can meet budget reduction targets.

Lisbon’s investor confidence has fallen after the minority government’s resignation last week.

The opposition rejected its austerity plan in parliament, prompting many economists to predict that it will not be long before the country will need a bailout like Greece and Ireland.

Standard & Poor’s said: “Given Portugal’s weakened capital market access and its likely considerable external financing needs in the next few years, it is our view that Portugal will likely access the EFSF and thereafter the ESM.”

S&P said Greece’s government was struggling badly to meet the targets set under its 110bn euro (£97bn;$150bn) EU-IMF bail-out deal.

Freya Leng

iPhone 4 back into nation’s top three

Apple’s iPhone 4 has surged back into the nation’s Top 3 favourite mobiles, according to the latest tracker from independent price comparison and switching service.

The uSwitch.com Mobile Tracker, which ranks the most popular handsets based on live searches and sales, also shows that for the second month in a row, HTC’s Desire and Desire HD handsets are the nation’s most popular mobiles. Meanwhile, Android has maintained its 50% stranglehold on the charts, further intensifying the battle between the tech giants of Apple and Google.

This month also sees a host of new handsets enter the Top 10 with Motorola, Blackberry and Samsung fighting it out lower down the table, as well as two Nokia phones appearing in the Top 10 for the first time.

Number one handset for March 2011 – The HTC Desire is once again the first choice for UK consumers. In many cases coming free on standard tariffs, gadget lovers can get one of the best Android experiences available on the market from as little as £15 a month.

Biggest climber – February’s biggest faller has become March’s biggest climber, as the iPhone 4 shoots back into the Top 3 from seventh place at the end of February. With retailers keen to shift stock before a possible summer announcement of iPhone 4’s successor and a wave of interest following the release of Apple’s iPad, there has been a flurry of attractive deals with consumers keen to bag a bargain.

 

Biggest fallers – The Blackberry Curve 8520 has fallen two places, adding to a bad month for RIM, with the Blackberry Torch also dropping a place. Making way for the iPhone 4, the HTC Wildfire has dropped out of the Top 3 and is now fifth. HTC’s falling prices have enabled budget conscious consumers to shift their attention to the attractive yet affordable Android curves of the Desire.

Ernest Doku, technology expert at uSwitch.com, comments: “For the second month in a row Android has taken another big chunk out of Apple, which will be sure to leave a sweet taste in Google’s mouth. Maintaining its dominance in the top ten is a clear statement that the search giant won’t be loosening its vice-like grip on the mobile market anytime soon.

“The exciting iPhone deals currently on offer mean that consumers can finally lay their hands on the object of their desire without breaking the bank. Three offers an almost unbeatable 2,000 cross-network minutes plus 5,000 minutes to Three networks, 5,000 texts, all-you-can-eat data and even a free cover for just £30 a month plus £69 upfront.

“HTC may still be dominating the charts, but we are starting to see other handsets fight their way into the top ten. Great phones from Nokia and Motorola are appealing to people who are watching every penny they spend, but still want the best in smartphone functionality. The advertising around Nokia’s N8, complete with 12-megapixel camera, should mean we see it hanging around the Top 10 for a while.”