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Ex-policeman jailed over VAT fraud


A former police officer who admitted his part in a £365 million VAT fraud has been jailed for 10 years and three months.

The conspiracy that Nigel Cranswick directed has taken the equivalent of 25 years of work to investigate, Judge Brian Forster said.

The 47-year-old ex-South Yorkshire Police officer was a director of Ideas 2 Go, and, despite its modest base in a Sheffield business park, he claimed it bought and sold £2 billion worth of goods in just eight months.

He has since admitted that the firm's trading, largely in mobile phones and computer software, was fictitious, and the aim was to generate paperwork from fake sales in order to claim back a fortune in VAT from HM Revenue and Customs.

Judge Forster, sitting at Newcastle Crown Court, said: "This case concerned planned dishonesty resulting in the loss to the Revenue in the region of £365 million.

"There were purported sales of billions of pounds.

"The prosecution rightly described the case as an unprecedented attack on the Revenue.

"The case has taken 25 man-years to investigate."

Cranswick was recruited to play his role in the MTIC (missing Trader intra-community) fraud by others.

Also known as carousel fraud, it involves importing goods from other EU states which are then sold through contrived business-to-business transactions.

Cranswick, of Danby Road, Kiveton, Sheffield, admitted conspiracy to cheat HMRC at a hearing last month.

After the sentencing, Exchequer Secretary David Gauke said: "This Government will not tolerate dishonest people stealing public money.

"This sentence shows that those who try to commit fraud need to think again - HMRC will find you and the courts will punish you.

"The additional £917m we have invested in HMRC will see more cases like this successfully prosecuted, sending a clear and powerful message."

The judge said the sentencing exercise was to punish the offending and deter others.

"The figures in this case are astonishing, they reveal the blatant nature of the fraud," he said.

Between June 2005 and February 2006, I2G supposedly carried out almost 6,000 deals, with a turnover of £2.4 billion.

Sentencing Cranswick, the judge said: "You were immediately before this fraud a serving police officer. Almost unbelievably you retired from the police force and became the organiser of this fraudulent operation.

"You set up the company, you clearly accepted the direction of others - the organisers who are not before this court."

Outside court, HMRC said Cranswick went "from rags to riches" soon after retiring, having been heavily in debt as a police officer.

A spokeswoman said: "He made lavish improvements to his home, rented a luxury apartment in the Spanish town of Marbella and paid for private schooling and tennis lessons for his children.

"Cranswick claimed that in the first six weeks of trading Ideas 2 Go had turned over more than £527 million.

"The company had traded over £47 million before they even got round to opening a bank account for the business."

HMRC assistant director for criminal investigation Paul Rooney said: "As a police officer Cranswick knew full well that he was breaking the law, yet, motivated by greed, he chose to overlook it for the opportunity of making what he wrongly assumed would be easy money.

"He now has to pay a very high price for his poor judgment and lack of integrity.

"This was a sophisticated fraud designed to steal hundreds of millions of pounds of tax, but it started to unravel when our investigations identified sales for more than 50,000 mobile phones, which the manufacturers hadn't even begun producing in their factories."

Cranswick nodded as the judge passed sentence, and gestured to members of his family in the public gallery as he was led away.

Also sentenced after admitting conspiracy to cheat the Revenue were Thomas Murphy, 27, of Dinnington, who was jailed for four and a half years; Cranswick's brother-in-law, Darren Smyth, 42, from Beech Road, Maltby, and Brian Olive, 56, from Buttermere Close, Doncaster, who were sentenced to three years and four months each; and former housing officer Andrew Marsh, 28, from Sheffield, who was jailed for two years and eight months.

Cranswick's 44-year-old sister, Clare Reid, married to Smyth, was handed a nine-month sentence, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work after admitting two counts of false accounting.

Cranswick styled himself as a singer-songwriter and can be seen on his website strumming a guitar to a song called Hit And Miss with the opening lines: "I'm in trouble, falling down a hole. How I got here, I won't ever know."

He was lead singer with an indie band called Not The Police.