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Fraudsters jailed for £1m house building scam

25 May 2018 | By Neil Gerrard

A father and son have been jailed over a £1m VAT scam involving new-build houses that never existed. They were captured in Spain and extradited to the UK to face trial.

Former Sandbanks resident Jamie Colwell, 51 (pictured right), has been sentenced to five years and three months while his father, Brian Colwell, 76, of Bournemouth, has been sentenced to two years and eight months.

The pair, along with Jamie’s former partner Briony James, 45, of Salisbury, had claimed to have spent £14m building new houses, to fraudulently claim VAT repayments totalling £965,897, but a HMRC investigation revealed not a single brick had been laid.

Both men were sentenced in their absence at Bournemouth Crown Court on 22 January 2018. Briony James was jailed for 20 months.

Jamie Colwell had tried to avoid jail by flying to France in a light aircraft, while his father escaped by ferry before both headed to Spain.

The pair were tracked down by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigators and to a villa near Benidorm, where they were arrested by Spanish officers on the evening of 9 May 2018.

They were returned to the UK on 23 May, and immediately taken into custody overnight before appearing at Bournemouth Crown Court by video link on 24 May.

The men are now starting their jail terms for their part in the VAT repayment fraud.

Richard Wilkinson, assistant director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: "The Colwells thought they could evade prison and use their criminal cash to fund a new life on the Costa Blanca but they were wrong. With close cooperation from our international law enforcement partners we tracked the fugitives down, so they can now look forward to jail instead.

"HMRC is determined to ensure absconders face justice. We will pursue those criminals who blatantly steal from the public services we all rely on, and look to recover the proceeds of their crimes from current and future wealth."

Judge Fuller QC, said that future sentencing will take place for the breach of bail.

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