Tax fugitive Geoffrey Johnson deported from Dubai, jailed in UK

Tax fugitive Geoffrey Johnson deported from Dubai, jailed in UK
Geoffrey Winston Johnson, 74, played a leading role in an 18-strong crime gang

Dubai - Johnson was apprehended in Dubai after using a fake passport to travel from Kenya

By Web Report

Published: Sun 16 Jul 2017, 8:37 AM

Last updated: Sun 16 Jul 2017, 2:14 PM

One of Britain's most wanted tax fugitives has been returned to the UK after being apprehended at Dubai Airport last week using a false passport, according to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

According to HRMC, the 74-year old man, Geoffrey Winston Johnston, was "at the centre" of a vast, multi-million pound tax fraud, and played a leading role in an 18-strong gang involved in a complex VAT fraud scheme. He was sentenced - in absentia - to 24 years in prison and both he and his son were ordered to pay back £109m (Dh524,616,643) worth of criminal proceeds.

Johnson was caught on Friday (July 7) in Dubai after using a fake passport to travel from Kenya, where he was hiding. As soon as his identity was revealed, HMRC personnel moved to work with Dubai authorities to return him to the UK.

He arrived back in Britain and appeared at Kingston Crown Court on Thursday morning, where he was sentenced to an additional six months in prison for skipping his original trial.

"We've been pursuing Johnson from the day he decided to flee the UK. Despite him taking audacious measures to evade capture, we tracked him across the globe and he is now back to begin a long spell in prison," said Simon York, Director of HMRC's Fraud Investigation Service. "This sophisticated fraud was outright theft of money intended for important public services and it is right that he now pays the price for that crime."

"Getting him back to face justice is testament to the hard work and professionalism of HMRC investigators, who uncovered and investigated his crime and successfully tracked him down with the help of the Dubai authorities," York added.

According to York, Johnson is the sixth tax fugitive found abroad and returned to the UK this year.

"HMRC will always relentlessly pursue tax criminals and we are determined to ensure nobody is beyond our reach," he said.

Johnson's Crimes

According to the HMRC, the gang - which was based Cheshire, East Sussex, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, North Wales, Staffordshire, Scotland and Spain - set up a number of businesses claiming they were importing and selling mobile phones. Their fraud was hidden by a complex web of transactions, but investigators determined it was all an elaborate VAT repayment fraud.

The gang allegedly went to considerable lengths to hide the proceeds of their criminal activities, and laundered stolen money through bank accounts in the UK, Andorra, Dubai, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Portugal, and the United States.

In 2014, Johnson was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in the fraud. The previous year, his son Gareth was sentenced to 12 years. Both men received an additional 14 years added to their sentence in March 2016 when they did not pay a confiscation order for the £109 million.

Gareth - who played an integral role in the gang's money laundering operations through UK and offshore accounts - remains a fugitive.

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