Chelsea couple found guilty of Chanel VAT fraud

Further evidence that HMRC will not tolerate fraudsters came with the news that guilty verdicts were recently passed on a married couple that tried to steal £220,000 by using a VAT scam.

The husband, Emmanuel Scotts, was given a four and a half year custodial sentence at the Old Bailey, while his wife got a suspended prison sentence, a 12 month supervision order and a four month tagged curfew.

Accountants in London may be interested in the way the Scotts perpetrated this crime. The couple went into Chanel boutiques in London’s Mayfair and Chelsea areas and pretended to be rich overseas customers. They bought goods and then returned them to a different Chanel branch in order to obtain a refund. They did this on such a regular basis that they managed to con Chanel into providing they with VAT refund vouchers.

Once they had acquired a sufficient amount of vouchers, they validated them with a fake Customs stamp and sent them off to Premier Tax Free, the organisation that handles VAT refunds on behalf of Chanel. The Scotts received VAT refunds of £177,000, which was paid directly into their bank accounts.

The couple lived in a penthouse in Chelsea, valued at £1.8 million. They made out they were a rich company who earned their living from gambling at casinos. The reality was very different; they had hardly any money and relied on housing benefit to cover more than 50% of their rent.

HMRC has instigated confiscation proceeding to recover the proceeds of the couple’s fraudulent activities.

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