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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

Dubai border police praised for helping snare British fraudster

Geoffrey Johnson was wanted by UK authorities for his role in a Dh800m tax fraud and has returned to the country to face 24 years in jail.

Fraudster Geoffrey Johnson was caught in Dubai. Courtesy HMRC
Fraudster Geoffrey Johnson was caught in Dubai. Courtesy HMRC

Eagle eyed Dubai immigration officials have been praised by the British Embassy for their role in snaring one of the UK’s most wanted tax fugitives.

Geoffrey Johnson, 74, was wanted for his role in a complex Dh800 million tax fraud and money laundering of more than Dh6 billion.

The pensioner fled to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, but was picked up by authorities as he tried to pass through Dubai from Kenya on a false passport.

"Tackling trans-national crime requires a cohesive international response, and this result demonstrates co-operation at its best,” said Steve Baker, regional manager of the UK's Fiscal Crime Liaison Network.

“Johnson had been on the run since 2014 and as the net closed, he believed he could illegally enter Dubai from Kenya to evade capture.

“The skill and professionalism of the Dubai General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs and the Police Wanted Persons unit quickly put a stop to that.”

Police in Dubai combined tried and tested investigation methods with the emirate’s world class technical capability to identify false documents presented at passport control.

A decision was made to deport Johnson back to the UK, where authorities were alerted to arrange his return to the country to face justice.

Johnson fled the UK along with his son Gareth in July 2014 to avoid jail. He was sentenced in his absence on September 9, 2014 to 24 years imprisonment.

On his return to the UK last week, a court added a further six months to his sentence for his failure to appear at his original trial.

“Johnson will now face over 24 years in prison for his serious crimes and this should be a warning to others who commit crimes like this or abscond from justice,” Mr Baker added.

“HM Revenue and Customs will relentlessly pursue you and your criminal assets wherever in the world that may be. There are no safe havens.”

Assets from the family’s criminality have since been sold off, including expensive sports cars and a luxury home in Scotland that has since been turned into a hotel.

According to the UK’s tax evasion investigation agency, sentences totalling 135 years have been handed out to 18 gang members across UK and Spain during four trials held between 2012 and 2014.