Customs and Excise has issued an international arrest warrant after a businessman accused of taking part in a £7.5m VAT evasion and money-laundering fraud disappeared.
Giuseppe Picone, a company director, failed to appear for a preparatory hearing at Southwark Crown Court earlier this month on four charges of fraudulently evading VAT.
Mr Picone is one of four men facing nine counts of fraud, false accounting and money-laundering. They were arrested as part of a long-running Customs investigation into tax evasion and false accounting, code-named Operation Jellybeans.
The investigation, which is understood to cover a so-called "carousel fraud" involving the use of false invoices and VAT receipts for tens of millions of pounds, relating to the sale of goods between Britain and foreign countries, is continuing.
The prosecution revolves around allegations that false invoices were produced for a number of companies based in London and Gibraltar, including one firm called Senior Electronics.
The main defendant is Claude Greaves, an accountant and company director from Belgravia, London, who faces six charges of fraudulently evading VAT, false accounting and also laundering the proceeds of the fraud.
Mr Picone and another co-accused, Stephen Linsley, are jointly charged on two counts of fraudulently evading VAT. They and Mr Greaves, with the fourth defendant, Wayne Fisher, also jointly face two further counts of fraudulently evading VAT.
The warrant for Mr Picone's arrest was issued in early August, two months after a pre-trial hearing. The other three defendants pleaded not guilty.