Businessman given suspended jail terms after £160,000 fraud

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A Poyntzpass businessman, who stole £160,000 through a VAT fraud, has been given suspended prison sentences.

James Henry Joseph Linden (38) pleaded guilty to five charges relating to fraud and tax evasion after HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigators uncovered his crime.

He was given concurrent 20-month prison sentences for each offence, suspended for three years, when he appeared at Newry Crown Court on Wednesday.

Between January 2010 and September 2012, Linden, the company secretary of Linden Agri Ltd, used his UK VAT registration number to buy supplies of silage wrap and other goods.

He defrauded suppliers by making cheque payments which he did not honour.

He also used his registration number to import farming supplies VAT free, from the Republic of Ireland. He then sold these supplies within the UK, charging his customers VAT.

However, Linden failed to pass the VAT on to HMRC, pocketing over £160,000.

Linden was also ordered to pay a £64,000 compensation order, which was shared between four companies he defrauded and was banned from being a company director for three years. A nominal £1 confiscation order was also obtained with an agreed benefit of £156,000.

Steve Tracey, assistant director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said, “When we pay tax, we expect it to go towards paying for vital public services, not to line the pockets of unscrupulous traders.

“Linden knew he was breaking the law but thought he could get away with ripping off honest taxpayers. HMRC is levelling the playing field for honest businesses, investing more time and effort than ever into tracking down those who attempt to rip off public services to line their own pockets.

“Tax fraud is a serious crime and I ask anyone with information about those who may be involved to contact the HMRC Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”