A fake green investment gang who duped nearly 800 celebrities and wealthy investors into handing over more than £100 million has been jailed.
The six-strong gang promised their victims tax breaks and better than average returns for their money.
But the truth was they spent the cash on a lavish lifestyle of expensive homes, super cars and luxury holidays.
Tax inspectors spent 10 years unravelling the gang’s deceit set up around a web of offshore companies and bank accounts designed to confuse and obstruct anyone looking at the scam.
Led by Cambridge-educated engineer Michael Richards, 55, from East Sussex, the scammers persuaded wealthy investors cash in on fake environmental projects involving carbon credits around the world.
Money hidden offshore
Rodney Whiston-Dew, 66, from London, a solicitor and former president of the Rotary Club of London set up the complex offshore structures to disguise the fraud and hide the money.
Entrepreneur Robert Gold, 49, of Dubai, was Richards’ right-hand man and was trusted to buy properties around the world.
The other gang members found guilty at Southwark Crown Court were environmentalist and business consultant Jonathan Anwyl, 44, of East Sussex and former banker and music industry executive Evdoros Demetriou 78, from Oxford.
They denied charges of conspiracy to cheat the public revenue when the case opened in February 2017. Richards, Gold, Whiston-Dew and Demetriou also denied cheating the public revenue.
But they were found guilty by a jury.
Sentencing, Justice Andrew Edis said: “You played with high stakes and lost. It was bare-faced dishonesty and you did everything to inflict loss on the public, the people who pay their taxes, who were also victims.”
The remaining gang-member, Malcolm Gold, 73, of Hertfordshire, admitted cheating the public revenue in November 2016 and was sentenced to 20 months in prison in January 2017.
Simon York, Director of Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC said: “This was an audacious and cynical fraud on an astonishing scale, characterised by greed and a complete disregard for the ecological causes the perpetrators claimed to be supporting. Instead the group spent investors’ money on their own lavish lifestyles.
“These individuals thought they had worked out the perfect fraud. At every step they used contrived offshore structures, complex transactions and blatant lies to hide their tracks and derail our criminal investigation.