• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

VAT fraudster who went on run to Cyprus given 11 years

A businessman who was one of Britain's most wanted tax ­fugitives has been jailed for more than 11 years for a multimillion-pound tax fraud.

extradited: Michael Voudouri pled guilty to money-laundering in 2012 but then fled to northern Cyprus.
extradited: Michael Voudouri pled guilty to money-laundering in 2012 but then fled to northern Cyprus.

Michael Voudouri, 46, of Bridge of Allan, Stirling, pled guilty in October 2012 to laundering £11.6 million through banks, company accounts and individuals between 2001 and 2004 as part of a VAT scam.

But he failed to appear for sentencing in a Scottish court the following month and it emerged he had fled to northern Cyprus.

He remained there until he was tracked down, extradited and returned to Scotland last month.

He was jailed yesterday for 11 years and six months when he appeared at the High Court in Edinburgh.

Voudouri was locked up for 10 years for the charges relating to what the judge described as a "complex money-laundering ­operation", and an additional 18 months for failing to appear in court in 2012.

Judge Lord Tyre told Voudouri, who has a previous conviction for VAT fraud: "In my view, the offences which you committed fall towards the upper end of the scale of seriousness, both in relation to the very large sums involved and in relation to the complexity and sophistication of the laundering arrangements which you were responsible for directing, along with others."

Voudouri was initially charged with laundering more than £48m but ultimately pled guilty to charges relating to sums of over £10.3m and £1.2m. However, he later sought to withdraw his guilty plea and has instructed his lawyer, Aamer Anwar, to lodge an appeal against the conviction.

The court heard the charges arose from an investigation by the tax authorities into a suspected "carousel" VAT fraud being perpetrated through a company called Q-Tech Distribution Ltd, which had premises in Glasgow.

"This was a complex money-laundering operation," Lord Tyre told Voudouri. "The sums of money which you, and others acting with you, transferred from Q-Tech's bank account to accounts with banks in Cyprus, Greece, Switzerland and elsewhere were very large indeed."

The judge went on: "You instructed the formation of companies in Delaware and in the British Virgin Islands to further conceal the true source and ownership of these funds.

"Eventually some of those funds found their way back to Scotland, to be used by you, among other things, for the purchase of a house in Bridge of Allan and to fund a designer clothes business in Stirling. Again, you made use of third parties to conceal your personal financial interest in these assets."

Voudouri faced a maximum penalty of 14 years for the laundering offences. He yesterday admitted a single charge under the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act over his failure to appear in court to face justice in 2012.

"This was clearly a pre-­meditated decision to abscond to avoid punishment for the offences to which you had pled guilty," said Lord Tyre. "Your decision to abscond to northern Cyprus caused a great deal of trouble and expense in, first of all, attempting to trace your whereabouts and, subsequently, having you brought back to this jurisdiction. I regard this, too, as a serious offence."

The court also imposed a 15-year Financial Reporting Order against Voudouri - a move that helps the authorities monitor the financial affairs of an accused after conviction.

Lindsey Miller, procurator fiscal for organised crime and counter terrorism, said: "After an extremely complex investigation, today we have seen justice ­delivered to an individual who participated in money laundering on an industrial scale and who has gone to great lengths to escape the Scottish authorities."

Speaking on his client's behalf outside court, Mr Anwar raised questions about the actions of HMRC in the case. He also called on the Crown to explain "why 19 key individuals involved in the tax fraud have never faced justice".

Contextual targeting label: 
Finance

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

243709