A lay preacher who bought himself a lordship has been jailed after being named as the mastermind behind a multimillion-pound mobile phone carousel fraud operation.
Malcolm Edwards-Sayer of Bramcote, who worked as a law lecturer and lay preacher and bought the title of Lord Houghton, was sentenced to six and a half years at Nottingham Crown Court for failing to pay £51m of VAT for a number of deals done through his companies in the UK and Gibraltar.
Edwards-Sayer was described as the main player in the ‘missing trader’ scam, which involved the purported import of mobile phones and computer chips from a number of EU countries, VAT free. The goods would then be sold on at lower prices, but with VAT added, through a chain of companies.
Once the goods had been sold on a number of times, they would be exported back to EU countries. The companies would then default or go ‘missing’, before making their VAT repayments to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).
Director of operations for HMRC Criminal Investigation Nick Burriss said: ‘This was not some kind of victimless crime, but organised fraud on a massive scale perpetrated by criminals all bent on making fast and easy profits at the expense of the British taxpayer.’
While on remand, Edwards-Sayer received a six-month sentence for contempt of court for 18 breaches of a restraint order, including using bank accounts that belonged to his parents. He received a further three and half years for 16 counts of deception for pretending to be a solicitor.
On sentencing, Judge Teare said: ‘You were diligent and dedicated in carrying out this fraud. You persisted in defrauding the nation and offered these services to others to help them commit fraud. You are a 49-year-old adult and when you look back at your lifetime, it is filled with crime.’
Rachel Horton of Newark, Nottingham, was sentenced to 150 hours’ community service for laundering £1m of the fraud.