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East European Gang Gaoled In UK

Robert Lee,, London

24 December 2010

Six members of an East European gang who ran a string of companies offering accountancy services for Eastern European workers in London, have been gaoled following a complex investigation by HM Revenue and Customs.

The ringleaders of the gang were a married couple, Youri Khomitch and Victoria Chambers, who submitted more than 3,000 fraudulent self-assessment tax returns over a four-year period, for both fictitious people and individuals whose identities had been hijacked. When they were arrested, HMRC officers found over GBP130,000 in cash and GBP380,000 of payable orders from HMRC.

The enterprise was started by Khomitch and Vjacheslav Dostenko, a Belarussian, in 2004. They fell out in 2005 and Dostenko was joined by Roman Kuznetsov, a convicted Russian cigarette smuggler. They set up a bogus recruitment company in Southwark and lured unsuspecting eastern European construction workers to their offices on the false promise of lucrative work. Once there, the gang took their identity documents which they then used without their knowledge to submit hundreds of false repayment returns.

Some of the firms were set up by Alexander Sokolovskiy, a Russian who specialised in false identities and was described in court as the “bank man”. He set up companies which the rest of the gang used as a cover for the fraud, and used fake identities to open the bank accounts that were used to receive the illegal rebates. Also convicted was Oleksandra Hawkins who acted as company secretary for two of the companies used to commit the fraud.

Peter Hollier, Assistant Director, Criminal Investigation for HMRC said: “This was an organized criminal attack on the public purse. This gang stole identities and exploited innocent citizens with no regard for the consequences – they were solely motivated by greed. Tax fraud is not a victimless crime – it takes money away from vital public services, and HMRC is determined to make the perpetrators of these crimes face the full force of the law.”

The gang members are currently subject of a restraint order, freezing assets of over GBP2m. Confiscation proceedings are underway.

TAGS: individuals | court | Russia | tax | law | Belarus | construction

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