UK watch dealer jailed for GBP1.6m VAT fraud

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Antique watch dealer Jonathan Uri Shohet was jailed for eight years this week after fraudulently claiming more than £1.6 million in tax payments.

Shohet, who owns businesses JTW Global and JUS Watches, used stolen invoice books and fake invoices to claim back VAT from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) for watches bought for his businesses but it turned out that a large number of the watches claimed for had never been bought.

HMRC said that 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 the companies said to have supplied the high value antique watches, investigators found that some of the transactions had never taken place. Shohet also used many legitimate invoices to reclaim the VAT back for watches twice.

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HMRC carried out dawn raids on Shohet’s home in Baldock, Hertfordshire, and his businesses at Grays Antique Market in London, and removed more than 60 bags of documents, four laptops and two iPads.

At Shohet’s business address officers found a safe containing illicit invoice books from several watch retailers. The books were later forensically examined and found to be covered in Shohet’s fingerprints.

Shohet was first arrested at Heathrow airport on October 4th on his return from Dubai and was found to be carrying £17,000 in cash. He later admitted to investigators that he had accrued large debts from a lavish lifestyle and bad business decisions.

HMRC assistant director for criminal investigation Martin Brown 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.”

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