Revenue swoops on 21 suspected of plotting massive ‘missing trader’ fraud

Twenty-one people were arrested in dawn raids by HM Revenue & Customs officers investigating a multi-million-pound construction industry fraud.

Eighteen men and three women from the West Midlands, Staffordshire, Nottingham, London and Manchester were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to cheat the public revenue and money-laundering offences amounting to over £6 million.

The plot is believed to have been orchestrated by organised crime gangs in a bid to steal millions of pounds in a complicated conspiracy through a version of ‘missing trader’ fraud. This sees the creation of a contrived chain of companies, which each claim to subcontract labour for the construction industry, with the sole intention of disappearing before paying the taxes due to the public purse. They pocket the ‘tax’ and hijack legitimate companies along the way.

The conspiracy exploits individuals working in the construction industry and abuses the government scheme that regulates the industry’s tax affairs. It is thought thousands of construction site workers may have been robbed of the income tax and national insurance contributions they believe they have paid over the past six years.

More than 40 search warrants were executed at residential and business premises across England.

Cash totalling £73,000 has so far been seized, along with paperwork including bank accounts and computers, class A drugs and associated equipment.

l In a separate case, Nigel Anthony Baxter, 44, of Greenhill Cottages, Mossley, Lancashire, was disqualified as a director for three years, given 200 hours of community service and ordered to pay £4000 prosecution costs at Tameside Magistrates’ Court.

Baxter used phoenix companies to continue trading after his gas services firm went bust with unpaid debts.