Jonathan Nugent, 53, director of a computer company, was charged with a £5.5 million VAT fraud in 1998. He was released on bail but absconded to the USA in 2000 before his trial began. Last year HMRC named Nugent as one of its most wanted fraudsters still on the run, linking him to a £22 million tax fraud.
After the launch of HMRC’s Most Wanted list, Nugent was tracked down by the HMRC Fugitive Unit with the help of the US authorities. He was deported to the Republic of Ireland on immigration offences and then extradited to the UK on a European Arrest Warrant to face trial.
Nugent was originally arrested after investigators found he had used his company to help others smuggle goods into the UK, evade UK duty, and use false paperwork and invoices to reclaim millions of pounds in VAT repayments. The laundered money was hidden in offshore bank accounts.
Mike O’Grady, HMRC Assistant Director of Criminal Investigation, said:
Today’s sentence demonstrates that we do not forget or give up on tax fraud cases, whatever the time lapse from offence to capture.
We strongly suspect that Nugent left the UK on an Irish passport, which he’d originally obtained as soon as his co-conspirators were arrested, and flew with his family to the USA via Eire. Once we had located him, the American authorities were able to use visa violations to deport him quickly so that we could enforce the arrest warrant.
Nugent, a former computer dealer, was a director of Clear Technology Limited, based on Lovely Lane, Warrington, Cheshire. He lived in Great Sankey, Warrington, at the time of the fraud. Investigations by former Customs and Excise officers (now HMRC) proved that Nugent and others smuggled computer components from Hong Kong and Eire into the UK between 1994 and 1998. This allowed the gang to evade UK customs duty on importation, and VAT on sales within the UK.
Nugent played a key role as he introduced the smuggled goods into his company records by using false invoices. These were then used to support false VAT declarations, reducing the VAT due to HMRC, resulting in the evasion of approximately £5.5 million. Nugent laundered the profits from the fraud by either making large cash withdrawals or organising transfers to false business accounts set up by his co-conspirators. The money was eventually transferred into accounts in Hong Kong and Switzerland in the names of the main conspirators, including Nugent – who also used the alias Newgent in the fraud.
In 1999, Nugent was charged with conspiracy to Cheat the Public Revenue. He was due to face trial alongside other conspirators in September 2000 but absconded from the UK on 27 March 2000, breaching bail conditions. Other gang members involved in the smuggling and money laundering were jailed for over 16 years in 2001.
As a result of his recapture and arrest in 2012, Nugent pleaded guilty on 3 May 2013 at Manchester Crown Court and was sentenced to 4 years 6 months in jail today.