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Last Updated: Monday, 13 August 2007, 14:45 GMT 15:45 UK
Business fraud in UK rises 42%
Gloved hand reaching into safe
Huge potential rewards and light sentences are attracting fraudsters
Business fraud is becoming more attractive because of growing rewards and falling chances of prosecution, according to BDO Stoy Hayward.

Its Fraudtrack report found that fraud involving businesses hit 538m in the first half of 2007, up 42% from 2006.

It said VAT fraud was so lucrative that criminals only needed to hide away a few percent when they got caught.

"Many fraudsters are laughing all the way to their offshore tax haven," said BDO's Simon Bevan.

The report said that even those fraudsters who end up going to prison would only serve between two and five years, even for those involved with multimillion pound frauds.

Carousel fraud

It report found the fraud figures were being driven by growth in VAT frauds such as carousel fraud.

Traders who import and export goods between EU countries do not have to pay VAT. Thus items can be imported, passed through a series of "contrived transactions" - where VAT should be collected - and then exported.

At that point the dishonest trader can submit a claim for the repayment of the tax that was never collected in the first place.

This has happened with the same goods being sent round and round across numerous EU borders - hence the name "carousel" fraud.

The other growth area is fraud against businesses, and the report pointed out that the larger the fraud, the less likely there was to be a prosecution.

"Businesses, not surprisingly, focus on getting the money back and protecting their reputations - so few of such cases, less than 15%, result in a prosecution," said Mr Bevan.

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