10 arrested in uk-wide vat fraud operation

Customs officers investigating a suspected £250 million VAT missing trader fraud made 10 arrests this morning in UK-wide raids.

Codenamed Operation Euripus, today’s action follows a five year investigation, which included one of the biggest swoops ever undertaken by Customs. In July 2003, 350 officers raided 93 premises across the UK and Spain, and made 42 arrests.

The unprecedented scale of that operation led to a vast amount of material which has been analysed over the last three years. More than half a million documents have been systematically examined, along with the hard drives of 391 computers, with a combined data capacity of 28 terabytes (equivalent to 6 million copies of the complete works of Shakespeare).

Today’s arrests took place across England and Wales, and all ten men are being brought to London police stations. Further arrests are expected and searches will continue at one address in Nuneaton. In addition, European arrest warrants have been issued in France and Spain against four individuals.

Euan Stewart, Deputy Director, Criminal Investigation for HM Revenue & Customs said:

"Tackling missing trader fraud is HMRC’s top priority. We have a duty to protect the revenue given the scale and nature of the attack we are seeing. Today’s arrests follow years of painstaking effort by dedicated officers. The sophistication of the organised crime gangs behind these frauds means that our investigations are increasingly complex but we are committed to bringing the criminals behind it to justice and to recovering the money stolen from the British taxpayer, wherever in the world our investigations lead. This not a victimless crime it is organised crime that causes real harm."

Those arrested are believed to be part of a sophisticated network of companies that ‘carouselled’ large quantities of mobile phones, buying them VAT-free from the continent to supply to businesses in the UK, and then defaulting without paying the VAT due.

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