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GBP38m mobile phone fraudsters go down for 16 years

Two Britons have been jailed for a scam that saw them cheat UK Customs & Excise out of millions of pounds over a short period in 2000.

Raymond Woolley, 49, a company director from Stoke on Trent, and Robert William Garner, 33, a computer consultant, engaged in carousel fraud - importing mobile handsets into the UK, building up a value added tax debt and then selling the phones back out of the country to the initial vendor at a lower cost, still making money because they didn't pay the VAT. A judge at Birmingham Crown Court sentenced Woolley to nine years in prison and Garner to seven after they submitted guilty pleas at the end of last year. The prosecution investigated a network of implicated companies in Ireland, Spain and the English county of Staffordshire.

Euan Stewart, Customs & Excise Investigation Central Regional Manager, on Wednesday said in a statement: "These fraudsters planned to skim off huge and ever increasing amounts of VAT on their purchases whilst never paying a penny of VAT on their sales. It was a systematic attack on the VAT system by a criminal gang." In three months between 8 August and 2 November 2000 the criminals built up a VAT debt of GBP24,154,931 while only ever filing one VAT return for GBP273.49. In all, they defrauded Customs & Excise of around GBP38m.