Twin brothers have been jailed for about five years each after setting up fake charities to fraudulently claim more than £450,000 in Gift Aid repayments.
Arfan and Imran Ali, both 30 and from Handsworth Wood, Birmingham, were found to have used aliases to set up fake international development charities and then claim to be trustees of the organisations.
Arfan Ali was also convicted of conspiracy to cheat the public revenue and was sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court yesterday to four years and eight months in prison.
Imran Ali had already been sentenced to five years imprisonment for conspiracy to cheat the public revenue after a trial at Birmingham Crown Court in July.
Arfan Ali had failed to turn up in court for the hearing last year but was arrested in October.
In a statement today, HM Revenue & Customs said the charities were set up with the sole aim of committing fraud and that they failed to provide any services or raise any money for the causes they were allegedly supporting.
The brothers then claimed £456,508.30 in Gift Aid, which would have required more than £1.2m in donations to the charities.
The brothers, who submitted claims for Gift Aid repayments based on fake donations allegedly made between May 2009 and August 2012, also hijacked the details of a legitimate charity, which was not named by HMRC, to make further fraudulent Gift Aid claims.
But HMRC found that the money deposited in the charities’ bank accounts were "nowhere near" the amount required to claim that amount of Gift Aid.
HMRC said the brothers withdrew large amounts of money for themselves or transferred it to their businesses, which included catering companies and a convenience store.
Confiscation proceedings to recover the money would follow, HMRC said.
Judge Heidi Kubik QC said when sentencing Arfan Ali that both brothers had attempted to blame the other for what happened.
"You have each used your status as identical twins to your advantage in an attempt to mislead the jury," she said. "Happily, this jury has seen through that.
"Both of you were actively involved and both of you benefited."
Paul Fisher, assistant director of the Fraud Investigation Service at HMRC, said: "It’s shocking to see the depth of cynicism to which these two sank to steal money. They twisted and abused a way of helping good causes.
"The brothers knew what they were doing was utterly wrong, but didn’t care."