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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

Tax fugitive, 74, sent to UK jail after being snared in Dubai

Pensioner captured after false papers spotted by officials

A British fugitive at the the centre of a multi-million pound tax fraud has been returned to Britain to serve a 24-year jail term after being caught in Dubai using a false passport, officials said.

Geoffrey Johnson, 74, fled the UK before he was due to stand trial in 2014 for a complex trading tax scam with the proceeds laundered through bank accounts in Hong Kong, Switzerland and Dubai.

Johnson was found guilty in his absence of playing a leading role in the scam that defrauded British taxpayers of tens of millions of pounds.

The pensioner fled abroad along with his son, Gareth, the main player in the scam and they holed up in Tanzania and Kenya. They had been spotted by U.K. newspaper reporters but Johnson was only arrested a week ago when he travelled to Dubai and officials discovered that he had used false documents.

He was brought back to Britain yesterday and taken to court where an extra six months was added to his sentence for fleeing the country. His son, who ran some of the companies at the centre of the fraud, remains on the run.

The pair’s original sentences were more than doubled after they failed to pay back more than £109m in criminal proceeds demanded by prosecutors from the fraud that centred around fabricated tax claims linked to bogus sales of mobile phones.

A total of 18 gang members from across the UK and Spain were sentenced for a total of 135 years during four trials held between 2012 and 2014, according to the UK’s tax investigation agency.

“We’ve been pursuing Johnson from the day he decided to flee the UK,” said the head of the tax investigation unit Simon York. “Despite him taking audacious measures to evade capture, we tracked him across the globe and he is now back to begin a long spell in prison.”

Father and son used to live in a luxury home in Forfar, Scotland, set in 21 acres of land before they fled the country. Acquaintances said the family’s assets included a stable of high-end cars including Porsches and Ferraris. The home has since been sold and turned into a hotel.