A father, his son and an accomplice have been jailed for a total of 22 years for their roles in a £5m Gift Aid fraud.
John Davies, 58, of Esher in Surrey, and Olsi Vullnetari, 37, of Abingdon in Oxfordshire, were sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on Friday to 12 years and seven years in prison respectively for faking charity donations to two charities so they could fraudulently claim £5m in Gift Aid.
At a Southwark Crown Court hearing on 8 April, both men had been found guilty of two counts of cheating the public revenue and one count of money laundering between June 2005 and January 2014.
John Davies’s son, Ben Davies, 31, of Manchester, was jailed for three years by the same court for associated money laundering.
John Davies and Vullnetari claimed they were trustees and associates of two charities – the Sompan Foundation and the Kurbet Foundation – both of which were legitimately set up to help women and children in poverty, HM Revenue & Customs said.
Neither of the charities, which are based in Kingston-upon-Thames in south-west London, has filed any accounts with the Charity Commission since 2012.
HMRC said that when the founder of the two charities died, John Davies and Vullnetari submitted thousands of Gift Aid Claims between 2007 and 2012. Approximately £3.3m was claimed by the Sompan Foundation, which was managed by Ben Davies, and £1.74m was claimed through the Kurbet Foundation.
According to HMRC, all of the claims were fake and supported using false paperwork. The claims used the names and addresses of real people, some of whom were dead.
The money was then laundered through various bank accounts in numerous countries, including Hungary, the Netherlands, Thailand, South Africa, the US, the UAE and the Republic of Ireland, HMRC said.
A Hungary-based charity called the Tosk Foundation, which was set up by John Davies and had its headquarters near to a home owned by the Davies family in Balastya, Hungary, received about £1.6m in payments, HMRC said.
HMRC said it had prevented a further payment of £175,350 to the Sompan Foundation for the period of 10 June 2012 to 30 June 2012, and has recovered £848,000 from the Kurbet Foundation’s bank account.
David Margree, assistant director of the Fraud Investigation Service at HMRC, said: "Gift Aid is in place to support legitimate charities and offer extra funding, not for the financial benefit of criminals who abuse the system.
"HMRC and our partner, the Crown Prosecution Service, have brought to justice these fraudsters who, had they not been stopped, would have continued to rob public services and genuine charities of a great deal more.
"HMRC has already seized more than £848,000 from these tax cheats and we will look to recover further criminal profits."