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12 Oct 2018

High-living couple evaded tax and claimed benefits

A Liverpool couple who dodged tax and swindled benefits to fund a luxury lifestyle have been ordered to repay £355,000.

Bernard Knutsen, 69, and his wife Maureen, 63, ran Chaplin's bar on Lodge Lane and a car garage in the city.

Pictures reveal wads of cash found at their home that they used to fund their expensive tastes and jet-settling high-life.

The couple’s tax-dodging scheme also netted them

  • Trips to the UAE and USA in 2010 followed by a dream trip to the Far East taking in Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore and India in March 2011.
  • In November 2011, they jetted off to South Africa, followed by more trips to the USA in 2013 and then a holiday to Argentina, The Falklands and Antarctica in 2014 – all totalling £21,000
  • A brand new £24,000 kitchen at their Fell Street Home.
The couple were jailed for a total of seven years for tax and benefit fraud following a joint investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the Department for Work and Pensions and Liverpool City Council.

They now face losing their family home and pub – as well as expensive jewellery and tens of thousands of pounds in savings.

At a confiscation hearing led by HMRC at Liverpool Crown Court on October 4, Bernard Knutsen was ordered to repay £323,195 within three months or spend another three years behind bars.

The Knutsen's had thousands of pounds stashed away along with luxury watches and jewelry
£76,459 of this will be paid as compensation to the Department for Work and Pensions. Maureen Knutsen must repay £32,929 within three months or face another year in prison.

Debbie Porter, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “The Knutsens lived a jet-set lifestyle paid for by a criminal income from cheating every honest tax payer. The Knutsens lost their liberty because of their greed and now face more time behind bars. HMRC will continue to pursue criminals after conviction to seize their ill-gotten assets.”

They ran Chaplin’s Bar on Lodge Lane and a car repair garage on Hill Street, but failed to pay any VAT, National Insurance or Income Tax while also fraudulently claiming benefits.

A search of their home uncovered a wealth of jewellery, including Rolex watches and Royal Mint gold sovereign coins, as well as bundles of cash totalling almost £40,000 stashed in handbags.

Investigators also found that the couple had a £50,000 endowment policy, and had placed £20,000 into the bank accounts of their grandchildren.

The couple’s daughter Kelly Knutsen, 39, who was sentenced to 21 months suspended for two years for her involvement in the fraud, has been ordered to repay £5,010 within 28 days or face three months in jail.

Kelly Knutsen received unexplained money from both businesses into her bank account and owned a £4,000 Rolex watch.

She also claimed benefit to cover her rent but failed to declare a second property she owned and rented out.

The full £5,010 will be paid to Liverpool City Council as compensation.

Source

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