Four VAT fraudsters stole £4m by laundering money through high-profile businesses' bank accounts – including one belonging to a dead colleague.
The men fraudulently manipulated the accounts of the haulage and heavy plant hire firm to hide millions of pounds in customer VAT payments, enabling them to siphon off the money for themselves.
The group was led by Donald McLeod, 52, of Dorchester Way, Hayes, and also included Arthur Spring, 56, of Brewery Close, Wembley; Edward Corr, 51, of Monks Park, Wembley; and William Gallacher, 47, of Sussex Way, Islington.
The four were jailed for a total of 20 years at Southwark Crown Court on Thursday (March 19).
Their scam was foiled by an HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigation, which found that more than £16m passed through the group's company accounts between 2004 and 2012.
During that time, the men siphoned off £4m in VAT payments, set up false business bank accounts and used a late associate’s account to launder the cash.
John Cooper, HMRC's assistant director of criminal investigations, said: “This criminal group thought they had developed the perfect plan to steal from the UK taxpayer and launder their profit without detection or having to face the consequences.
“They were wrong and are now paying the price.”
In September 2012, HMRC officers arrested the four men and searched 15 domestic and business premises across London and south England.
Computers, mobile phones and business records were seized, along with £37,500 in cash, which was given back to the public purse.
In total, around 100 HMRC officers took part in the arrest and search operation – dubbed Operation Cocobean.
The Middlesex and north London-based companies that fronted the fraud were DM Services, DJM Services Ltd, O'Connor Plant and Heavy Trans Ltd.
These companies carried out high-profile work, including erecting the Christmas lights at Covent Garden and clearing waste from the London 2012 Olympics site.
All four fraudsters were charged with cheating the public revenue. Confiscation proceedings are now under way to reclaim their criminal profits.
Donald McLeod was found guilty and sentenced to seven years imprisonment. He was also disqualified from being a company director for 10 years.
William Gallacher was found guilty and sentenced to five years and nine months imprisonment.
Arthur Spring pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years and nine months imprisonment. He was also disqualified from being a company director for 10 years. Spring used various aliases as part of the fraud, including the name Neil Doherty.
Edward Corr pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years and nine months imprisonment. He was disqualified from being a company director for 10 years. Corr also used various aliases, including the name David John Mangan.