15 June 2023

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) reports that the ringleaders of a gang who triggered Northern Ireland’s (NI) biggest ever tax probe have been jailed, after exposure of secretly recorded conversations in a tapped accountant’s office.

The decade-long investigation into the £5 million tax fraud ended on 13 June 2023. Following, prison sentences issued to the gang leaders for a combined total of eight years. The case was based on more than 260 hours of secretly recorded footage of gang members plotting the fraud from the Belfast accountancy firm Allen Tully & Co, where Francis Devlin was a partner and the wider gang used as a base.

The gang created a false audit trail that enabled clients to operate in the construction industry without paying tax or VAT. 16 bogus companies were created and 56 associated bank accounts were used to commit the fraud. However, HMRC kept the gang under the secret surveillance for six weeks between February and March 2012. It’s the first time this technique has been used by HMRC in NI and it is usually reserved for the most serious of tax fraud cases.

Francis Devlin and Paul McStravick were jailed for four years each. Another 25 accomplices, most of whom knowingly allowed their personal details to be used as part of the fraud, were handed suspended prison sentences.

Richard Las, Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said:

“This was a sophisticated and complex fraud that took the largest ever tax probe in Northern Ireland, including extensive covert surveillance, for HMRC fraud investigators to bring it down.

Their tenacity and expertise has stopped the loss of millions of pounds in taxpayers’ money, which is now paying for our vital public services, rather than lining the pockets of criminals.

The fact is, no tax criminal is beyond our reach and that includes those corrupt professionals who aid and abet them, as these sentences clearly show.

We encourage anyone with information about any type of tax fraud to report it to HMRC online.”

Read the full press release here.

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