30/06/2010

Accountant Gets Eight Years To Count Cost

A London accountant has been jailed for eight years for stealing £11m in income tax and Value Added Tax (VAT) by manipulating both his clients' and his own tax returns.

Christos Charalambous (58) of Palmers Green, London, completed over 6,000 Self Assessment tax returns for clients which included fictitious expenses claims in order to increase the tax repayments due.

He also understated the income he received from client fees on his personal returns and failed to register, declare and pay VAT due on his accountancy firm Charltons.

Many of Charalambous' clients were from other EU countries and had little understanding of the UK tax system.

Steve Armitt, Assistant Director of Criminal Investigation for HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), said: "Charalambous is a thoroughly dishonest accountant who was motivated by greed.

"He betrayed the trust of innocent and vulnerable people to feed that greed.

"This deprived the nation's public services of millions of pounds. Our aim is to pursue and prosecute those involved in this type of criminal activity and reclaim the proceeds of their crime."

The court heard how Charalambous would submit tax returns for his clients to the Inland Revenue (IR) (up to April 2005) and HMRC (from April 2005) without showing his clients what information he was including.

He would then receive the repayments from IR/HMRC, deduct a minimum of 15% fee and repay the remainder to his clients, who would not question the amount refunded as they trusted him to complete the returns correctly.

The total amount of repayment claimed by Charalambous on his clients' behalf was £11,222,472.

Between 1997/98 and 2004/05, he understated client fee income on his own Self Assessment tax returns by £807,406.

He also failed to declare and pay £180,082 VAT due to HMRC.

He was found guilty on six counts of cheating the public purse at Blackfriars Crown Court following a trial that lasted seven weeks.

On passing sentence, His Honour Judge Richardson said: "The offences are more serious as you were a chartered accountant. HMRC ought to be able to trust you as should your clients.

"You exposed them to the dishonesty that you practice. With tax enquiries, you responded with evasion and lies."

(BMcC/GK)

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