Business fraudster sentence warning

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TAX watchdogs today said a Wigan businessman’s £10,000 fine and suspended prison term for his part in an industrial duty dodge sent a strong message to other would-be con artists.

Michael Kirk, 42, of Middlecot Close, Orrell, was a sales manager with a Widnes steel pipe company which cheated the taxman out of £640,000 by smuggling cheap Chinese-manufactured parts.

Croydon Crown Court heard that Kirk, who admitted his part in the scam, had played a key role in providing paperwork supporting the racket masterminded by his ex-boss who has since fled the country.

John Sutton, 64, of Newton St Margarets, Herefordshire was this week sentenced in his absence to two years in jail, fined £10,000 and banned from directorships for five years.

His firm, Ashby Scott Ltd was also ordered to pay £10,000 compensation. He is believed to be holed out in Canada.

Kirk, who received a 12-month suspended sentence and ordered to carry out 100 hours’ community service, admitted being knowingly concerned in the fraudulent evasion of duty on goods said to be from Japan between January 2003 and July 2006 and goods said to be from India from February 2006 to January 2008.

The court heard the parts were subject to a 58.6 per cent tax - nicknamed “anti-dumping duty” - imposed to thwart importers’ unfairly undercutting rivals within the EU. Kirk is a 25 per cent shareholder in Ashby Scott but the court heard his only real asset is the family home he shares with his wife and teenage daughter.

After the hearing Peter Millroy, Assistant Director of Criminal Investigation for HMRC, said: “This plot was designed to divert substantial funds into the pockets of these two businessmen – money that should have gone to the nation’s public purse.

“Instead, they paid overseas companies to falsify paperwork in a bid to evade duty and gain a commercial advantage over other UK companies.

“This latest prosecution will send a powerful message to those who engage in this form of criminality.”