The fraudster was sentenced to more than five years in prison at Southampton Crown Court
A cruise ship renovator who stole more than £1.7m of taxpayers’ money to prop up his failing businesses and maintain a lavish lifestyle was jailed for five and a half years on Monday following an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
50-year-old Christopher Rogers was arrested by HMRC in September 2013 after an investigation into his tax affairs revealed that despite his company, which refurbished ships for some of the world’s largest cruise liners, ceasing to trade in 2010, he continued to submit VAT repayment claims totalling £1,639,368.
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Investigators found that despite taking an annual salary of more than £125,000 during the company’s legitimate trading years, Rogers had not paid any income tax since 2008 and owed HMRC more than £63,000.
HMRC’s financial investigators also discovered that Rogers had enjoyed an opulent lifestyle during the period of the fraud; he rented homes in some of Southampton’s most sought after areas, drove a Mercedes 4×4, owned a selection of expensive watches and a large wine collection – and even bought himself a yacht.
HRMC’s John Cooper said: “Rogers admitted to lying on his VAT returns and to making false repayment claims.
“He used the cash to prop up his other failing businesses and contributed nothing to the public purse for years; shamelessly expecting taxpayers to fund a lifestyle that most people can only dream of.
“I hope this case sends out a clear message – crime does not pay; he will now have time to reflect on his actions, behind bars.
“Fraud of this nature robs the UK economy of vital funding and we appeal to local people and businesses to join us in the fight against crime and encourage anyone with information on tax evasion to contact us.”
Following his arrest Rogers commented that he had ‘been waiting for this for three years’.
He told HMRC that he had ‘only’ committed the fraud to support his other businesses and repay his debts, but admitted that the repayment claims were false and that he had not declared any income at all since 2008 despite receiving money from his businesses.
Rogers was later charged with fraudulently reclaiming VAT between July 2010 and August 2013 and fraudulently evading Income Tax between April 2008 and October 2010.
He was jailed for a total of five and a half years by His Honour Judge Ralls Q.C. at Southampton Crown Court on Monday 18 May, after pleading guilty at an earlier hearing.
Rogers was sentenced to four and half years for the VAT fraud and a year for the income tax evasion and was also disqualified from being a company director for ten years.
HMRC will seek to recover the proceeds of his crimes.