Yacht broker jailed over VAT fraud


A yacht broker who charged £210,000 VAT on the sale of six luxury motor boats but then failed to pay the money to the taxman has been jailed for three years.

James Williams, 51, from Dorchester, Dorset, was found guilty of six counts of cheating the public revenue and one count of false accounting, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said.

He used the cash to fund a luxury lifestyle and send his children to private school, while renovating a 44-foot yacht Siri in Portland harbour and living in a picture postcard cottage.

HMRC is now pursuing confiscation proceedings.

Investigators discovered that Williams charged VAT to UK customers for boats he sold to the tune of £1.4 million, but he then failed to pass the money to HMRC and pocketed £209,225.10.

Williams also falsified a sales invoice, in the name of another company, that suggested an inflated amount of VAT had already been paid on a motor yacht. This invoice was fabricated to make it appear that VAT had been charged on the sale of the vessel.

Sentencing Williams at Bournemouth Crown Court, Judge John Harrow said: "This was a deliberate and calculated attempt to deprive the Revenue."

Williams' business Fairline Dorset Limited was VAT registered between August 2005 and November 2007 and offences took place between 2003 and 2009.

HMRC VAT officers became suspicious of the company's financial activity because, although Williams received around £32,500 in VAT reclaims and charged and collected VAT from UK customers, no output tax was declared to HMRC.

John Cooper, HMRC assistant director criminal investigation, said: "Williams used his position as director of a yacht brokers to commit VAT fraud. He sold boats which had previously been supplied VAT-free for export to the Channel Islands, but failed to account for the VAT on their subsequent sale in the UK.

"This blatant attack on the tax system not only robbed the Exchequer of public funds, but is also unfair to those businesses that diligently abide by the rules."

"Tackling VAT fraud is a priority for us and we will not hesitate to pursue those who commit this type of offence."