We hear about VAT scams now and then, but rarely do we hear of one that runs into millions of pounds. Yet that was the situation that led to jail sentences for Geoffrey Copp, 56, his 51-year-old brother Andrew, and his 24-year-old son Joshua just days ago. All three pleaded guilty to the charges, which related to stealing a massive £45 million in their VAT scam.
The family members boasted of their wealth online. Pictures show Joshua posing with a fleet of luxury cars, including a Lamborghini said to be worth over £160,000. Police are now moving to seize as much of their property and gains as possible, to recoup the immense amount of money the three family members made from the scam.
During the case, it was revealed they employed foreign workers for minimum wage to ensure they could divert as much cash as possible their way. Their business, Central Payroll Specialists (later known as Quality Premier Services), would charge clients VAT for their services, before diverting that cash to fund their own luxurious lifestyles. Aside from the flash cars, the trio spent money on race horses, mansions, and luxurious trips to Las Vegas.
They declared sales to the taxman totalling nearly £20 million. However, the real total was over £250 million, and they kept the VAT receipts that should have been forwarded to HMRC to help them enjoy their lifestyle. Furthermore, neither Geoffrey Copp nor Joshua Copp paid anything in income tax from 2009 through until 2015. During the same period, Andrew Copp only paid £15,930.
As the court case came to an end, the judge jailed Geoffrey Copp for 10-and-a-half years for the scam. His brother was jailed for nine years, and his son for eight years. All three pleaded guilty. Apart from the cars and mansions, police discovered £55,000 in cash kept in Geoffrey Copp’s home when they raided it. The prosecuting QC described Joshua’s home as “an Aladdin’s cave”.
This is a stark warning of what can happen if anyone attempts to defraud HMRC of VAT payments due to them. The Proceeds of Crime Act should ensure as much as possible is seized from the trio to recoup the monies lost by the VAT scam. According to reports, around £22 million worth of property and cash has already been frozen. After several years of making the most of this source of cash, the Copp family now has many years to contemplate their situation in prison. It is likely to be many years before any of them are released, even if they serve only half their sentence. And when they are released, one suspects their lifestyle will be far less lavish than the one they became accustomed to.
It is rare to come across a VAT fraud of this scale, but at least on this occasion, the scam has been discovered and those responsible have rightfully been prosecuted for it.