Horsebox dealers guilty of £1.5million VAT fraud

A father and son who bought and sold horseboxes have been sentenced after being found guilty of a £1.5million VAT fraud.

Geoffrey Butchers, 71, and his son Phillip, 30, are said to have lived a “lavish” lifestyle after failing to declare any sales for their businesses between 2007 and 2015.

The men, from Daventry, Northamptonshire, were seen driving round in Ferarri and Aston Martin cars and Phillip also spend thousands on designer clothes and holidays in Rio De Janeiro and Abu-Dhabi.

Geoffrey also lied about the true value of sales on a second business they set up in 2015 under the name of Horseboxseller Ltd.

When HMRC searched the family home in 2016, they recovered £42,000 from a safe hidden in Phillip’s en-suite bathroom.

Both men were sentenced at Northampton Crown Court on Wednesday (4 September). Geoffrey pleaded guilty to VAT fraud in January 2018 and Phillip entered a guilty plea to money laundering charges on 5 August 2019.

Geoffrey was jailed for 26 months while his son was handed a 20-month prison sentence suspended for two years, ordered to do 180 hours of unpaid work and pay costs of £2,000.

“This fraud funded an extravagant lifestyle these men could not legitimately afford,” Nick Stone, assistant director of HMRC’s fraud investigation service said.

“They hid more than £40,000 in a bathroom safe and drove around in supercars while other honest, hard-working people paid the taxes they owed.

“We will now do all we can to recover the stolen cash from this father and son.”

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Geoffrey first registered Autojoint for VAT in 2004, but then de-registered the company three years later and told HMRC he had stopped trading.

HMRC said he continued to trade the business until 2015, but failed to submit any VAT returns. He then registered the Horseboxseller business for VAT in 2015, but lied on the subsequent returns.

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