Four men receive total of 27 years over £100m tax fraud

Four men have been jailed for 27 years in total, after being found guilty of a £100m tax scam which promised investors that they could legally reduce their tax bill while benefitting the British film industry, HMRC has said.

Accountant Keith Hayley, along with financial advisers Anthony Charles Savill and Robert Bevan, set up Little Wing Films, a company which would be developing film projects.

More than 275 investors deposited around £76m in total, with higher-rate taxpayers being promised £130,000 in tax repayments for every £100,000 invested, as the scheme took advantage of film industry tax breaks.

Helped by Monaco-based accountant Normal Leighton, the group claimed they spent £250m on film projects in Monaco. However, HMRC later found that these pre-production and development packages had actually been created in Little Wing’s London offices, for just £4m.

By falsely inflating expenses to more than £275m, they boosted the financial losses of the scheme and therefore enabled the investors to claim approximately £100m in tax repayments (which will be recovered from investors).

Offshore companies were set up in order to hide the fraud, with the group also falsifying paperwork as they mislead tax investigators on purpose to cover their tracks.

“This was a complex investigation in which great work by HMRC officers uncovered a web of offshore companies, fake transactions and a series of lies,” said Simon York, Director of HMRC’s Fraud Investigation Service.

“The fraud was a deliberate attempt to steal from the taxpayer, as well as investors who now face hefty tax bills. These fraudsters were already wealthy individuals who thought they could get away with it – now they are paying the price behind bars.”

A number of well-known people were among the investors, including football manager Sam Allardyce and The Streets band-member Mike Skinner. No investors have been suggested as knowing that the schemes were fraudulent at all.