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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 December 2005, 18:44 GMT
55m fraudster gets 12 years jail
Scales of justice
Leaf made a 22m profit from cheating the Inland Revenue
An international tax fraudster who cost the Inland Revenue 55m has been jailed for 12-and-a-half years.

Ian Leaf, 51, used an array of real and bogus companies worldwide to pull off what has been called "the largest swindle of its kind" in Britain.

Leaf used the crimes to fund a luxury lifestyle which included ownership of a mansion on the shores of Lake Geneva.

Last month the fraudster was convicted of 13 counts of fraudulent trading between 1991 and 1996.

Passing sentence at London's Southwark Crown Court, Judge David Higgins, said Leaf had been convicted of fraud "on a truly massive scale", adding that "it may well be without precedence, and in the pantheon of crime it ranks very highly indeed".

Every law abiding citizen in this country is a victim of your crimes in that you have denied the country of substantial resources
David Higgins

The multi-layered scam featured thousands of fictitious documents, a bank registered on a small South Pacific atoll and a firm of brokers that boasted little more than an accommodation address.

Using his financial acumen, and a raft of fake profits and imaginary expenses, the fraudster reaped the rewards of one tax allowance after another.

From his Swiss base, Leaf bought 13 subsidiary companies from public limited companies that had significant tax liabilities, before taking fictitious loans with high interest from a fictional bank registered in the Pacific island of Nauru.

The loans were also used to undertake highly profitable foreign exchange deals - not subject to UK tax - out of which were paid dividends.

Remorseless criminal

The tax cheat then used the companies as vehicles to reclaim corporation tax rightly paid by the companies before he purchased them.

The judge said: "Put simply you have by dishonest means deprived the Inland Revenue of approximately 55m, out of which you have made a net profit of approximately 22m. The whereabouts of this sum remains unknown."

Admonishing Leaf for being "entirely without remorse", he said Leaf's criminal activities "involved an intricate and sustained web of deceit" that "strike at the very heart of the financial structure of which social order so heavily depends".

"Every law abiding citizen in this country is a victim of your crimes in that you have denied the country of substantial resources," he concluded.

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