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12 October 2011, 17:41
An ex South Yorkshire police officer has admitted a £300 million VAT fraud believed to be the biggest in UK history.
Nigel Cranswick, 47, was a director of Ideas 2 Go (I2G), which he ran from a small office in a Sheffield business park, and claimed to have bought and sold at least #2 billion of goods in just eight months.
He has since admitted the firm's trading, largely in mobile phones and computer software, was fictitious, and the aim was to generate paperwork from fake sales in order to claim back a fortune in VAT from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).
A source close to the case, which has taken five years to investigate, said it was believed to be the largest of its kind ever taken to court.
Prosecution documents said: "In its eight-month trading life I2G's business documentation reveals that it purported to buy and sell goods in many thousands of deals, to the value of at least #2 billion. This included about #300m of VAT, which it was purportedly charged by its suppliers. The trade was not genuine and this £300m was the target of the defendants.''
Cranswick joined South Yorkshire Police in 1997, aged 33, and left the force a few weeks after I2G started trading in 2005. By then he and his wife, Nicola, owed £42,000 on top of their mortgage. Within a few weeks of I2G starting, the couple could afford portraits costing £2,208, teeth bleaching at £700, landscaping at £4,725 and more than £3,100 of furniture.
Paul Rooney, HM Revenue & Customs assistant director for criminal investigation, said: "This was a sophisticated fraud designed to steal hundreds of millions of pounds of tax. HMRC investigators unravelled a complex web of fake business transactions fabricated to conceal the massive financial fraud.''
Cranswick, of Danby Road, Kiveton, Sheffield, admitted conspiracy to cheat HMRC. Brian Olive, 56, of Buttermere Close, Doncaster, and Darren Smyth, 42, of Beech Road, Maltby, Rotherham, admitted the same charge.
Cranswick's 44-year-old sister Clare Reid, of the same address as Smyth, admitted two counts of false accounting.
They pleaded guilty on the eve of a trial at Newcastle Crown Court and will be sentenced, along with two other defendants, next month.