Three jailed over landfill tax fraud

Three men have been jailed after swindling over £1 million from an environmental tax credit scheme through a system of false invoicing and kickbacks.

The trio were sentenced at Wood Green Crown Court on September 2 after being found guilty of siphoning off grants and fees related to the landfill tax credit scheme.

The scheme allows landfill operators to offset their tax liability by making donations to environmental organisations.

The case against the defendants concerned various ways in which they used their influence or positions as managers or controllers of an environmental body, Environmental Preservation Initiatives (EPI), to siphon funds away from the purpose for which they were intended and line their own pockets.

Those convicted were Stephen Peter Sampson, 42, a director of Paradise Wildlife Park Ltd in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire which was supposed to receive a £400,000 grant from EPI and consultants William Joseph Hurley, 54 of Champions Management Ltd and Andrew Laurence Watts, 41 of Glevum Management Ltd who both provided services to EPI.

The first charge related to the practice of the three men of insisting on kickbacks being paid to companies under their control for grants totalling £656,000.

The three were also convicted of conspiring to cover up their fraud by creating fictitious invoices from the wildlife park for goods and services never received.

The park's accountant, Salvatore Solazzo, 45, was also accused of being involved in cooking the books but was acquitted.

They plotted to keep half the park's £400,000 grant for themselves.

Hurley and Watts had also faced a third charge after appropriating £460,000 in the form of 'fees' which included using two backdated consultancy agreements stating they were entitled to a retainer of 10% of all contributions raised by EPI under the tax credit scheme.

Hurley also acted as a director of Champion Management and EPI while banned from directorship following bankruptcy.

Sampson and Watts were sentenced to 2½ years imprisonment, while Hurley received 3 years and was banned from being a director for seven years.

Confiscation proceedings are now underway against the three offenders.

By Sam Bond

Updated: An appeal by Sampson to the Court of Appeal saw the conviction quashed  on May 25 2007.




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