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Ship renovator jailed following £1.7m VAT fraud

A SOUTHAMPTON BUSINESSMAN has been jailed for five and a half years after he stole more than £1.7m of taxpayers’ money to prop up his failing businesses and maintain a lavish lifestyle.

Christopher Rogers (50) was arrested by HMRC in September 2013 after an investigation into his tax affairs revealed that despite his company – which refurbished ships for some of the world’s largest cruise lines – ceasing to trade in 2010, he continued to submit VAT repayment claims totalling £1,639,368.

Investigators found that despite taking an annual salary of more than £125,000 during the company’s legitimate trading years, Rogers had not paid any income tax since 2008 and owed HMRC more than £63,000.

HMRC’s financial investigators also discovered that Rogers had enjoyed an opulent lifestyle during the period of the fraud; he rented homes in some of Southampton’s most sought after areas, drove a Mercedes 4×4, owned a selection of expensive watches and a large wine collection – and even bought himself a yacht.

HMRC criminal investigation assistant director John Cooper said: “Rogers admitted to lying on his VAT returns and to making false repayment claims. He used the cash to prop up his other failing businesses and contributed nothing to the public purse for years; shamelessly expecting taxpayers to fund a lifestyle that most people can only dream of. I hope this case sends out a clear message – crime does not pay; he will now have time to reflect on his actions, behind bars.”

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