Man gets five years for £14m computer fraud

A former general manager of Compulog Ltd was sentenced this week for reclaiming VAT on computer purchases that were never made

A man who was found guilty of a £14m VAT fraud involving computer equipment was jailed this week for five years.

Amiram Hashash, who was general manager of a company called Compulog Ltd from 1997 to 2000, had purchased large quantities of computer components from various "missing" traders. Compulog reclaimed the VAT on these invoices and made payments for the invoiced items to a large number of overseas third-party accounts controlled by Hashash, Wood Green Crown Court found.

Hashash was arrested by Customs & Excise on 16 March, 2000. A search of his home address revealed that his home computer contained blank templates for all the missing trader companies as well as clear evidence showing him to be the signatory of the missing trader bank accounts. Further investigation showed Hashash to have accrued significant property interests in his native Israel, believed to have been purchased using his share of the proceeds of the fraud.

A customs spokesperson said VAT missing trader fraud is widespread, and is often conducted by organised crime gangs. Customs introduced a nationally co-ordinated strategy to tackle the fraud in September 2000 and this is Customs' top VAT fraud priority, and over 1000 suspect registrations have been rejected.

In the Chancellor's Comprehensive Spending Review, issued on Monday, additional investment and resources were promised to combat VAT fraud.

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