AN ANTIQUE jewellery trader who fraudulently claimed over £1.6m in tax repayments for designer watches he never bought has been jailed.

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Jonathan Shohet, of South Road in Baldock, was found guilty of stealing invoice books and fake invoices to claim back VAT from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for expensive Rolex and Cartier watches.

The 45-year-old received an eight-year sentence when he appeared at Southwark Crown Court yesterday (Tuesday).

HMRC suspicions were raised when officers discovered a number of large cash purchases - some as much as £80,000 - while checking Shohet’s business records.

When the purchases were checked with two London companies that were supposed to have supplied the high value antique watches, investigators found that some of the transactions had never taken place. In addition, Shohet used many legitimate invoices to reclaim the VAT back a second time.

Shohet was arrested at Heathrow Airport last October when he arrived back in the UK from Dubai, and £17,000 in cash which he was carrying was seized,

Speaking after the verdict, Martin Brown, HMRC’s assistant director for criminal investigation, said: “We want to make it clear to people who think that it is acceptable to defraud the tax system that tax fraud is a serious criminal offence.

“Shohet tried to play the system so that he could fund a lavish lifestyle. He made great efforts to hide his crime, but despite his best efforts our investigators were able to unravel his scam.

“Anyone with information about individuals or businesses involved in this type of fraud can contact us on the Tax Evasion hotline on 0800 788 887 or via our website at www.hmrc.gov.uk/tax-evasion”

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