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Britain’s most wanted tax fugitive arrested in Dubai

The British fugitive fled the UK in 2014 and was wanted by authorities for £109m in tax fraud

Image Credit: Istockphoto

Dubai: One of Britain’s most wanted tax fugitives was arrested in Dubai after he was caught travelling with a fake British passport.

Geoffrey Winston Johnson, 74, from Forfar, Scotland, was at the centre of a vast, multi-million pound tax fraud. He played a leading role in an 18-strong crime gang involved in a complex value-added tax (VAT) fraud.

Johnson was sentenced to 24 years in prison in absentia, and both he and his son were ordered to repay £109m worth of criminal proceeds.

According to HM, fled the UK in July 2014 to avoid prison, and was deported from Dubai on July 7, 2017, after he was caught travelling from Kenya with a fake British passport.

As soon as his true identity was uncovered, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) moved quickly and assisted the Dubai authorities to secure his return to the UK to face justice.

Johnson was returned to the UK in the early hours of Thursday morning, on July 13. HMRC said that he was sentenced for an additional six months for not attending his original trial, and faces a total of 24 years and six months in prison.

Simon York, Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said in a press release on the authority’s website: “We’ve been pursuing Johnson from the day he decided to flee the UK. Despite him taking audacious measures to evade capture, we tracked him across the globe and he is now back to begin a long spell in prison. This sophisticated fraud was outright theft of money intended for important public services and it is right that he now pays the price for that crime.

“Getting him back to face justice is testament to the hard work and professionalism of HMRC investigators, who uncovered and investigated his crime and successfully tracked him down with the help of the Dubai authorities.”

The gang, based in England, North Wales, Scotland and Spain, set up a number of businesses claiming to be legitimately importing and selling mobile phones.

They hid their fraud behind a complex web of transactions but HMRC investigators discovered it was all an elaborate VAT repayment fraud.

HMRC investigators also uncovered a series of complex transactions which they used to launder stolen money through bank accounts in the UK and abroad, including through Andorra, Dubai, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Portugal and the US.