July 23 2015.

A second-hand car dealer from Gloucestershire who traded millions of pounds worth of cars for at least 14 years but kept no records and paid no tax has been jailed for four years and eight months.

An HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigation discovered that although millions of pounds had passed through the bank accounts of 71 year old Ambrose Smith, he was not registered for Income Tax, VAT or National Insurance. He had no specific business premises, but bought and sold cars as a middleman, buying from dealers and auction sites and selling vehicles to other dealers.

Smith, of Norton, Gloucestershire, kept no annual accounts, business records or stock books, but investigators found diaries containing handwritten records of car sales in a car transporter parked on his home driveway. He was also found to have an offshore bank account in the Channel Islands. HMRC officers also secured sales invoices from car dealerships that had traded with Smith.

Colin Spinks, Assistant Director Criminal Investigation, HMRC, said: “Smith was a ghost to the tax system, committing calculated fraud over a number of years and deceiving not only HMRC, but also the thousands of businesses who operate honestly and within the law.

“HMRC thoroughly investigates suspected tax fraud, and clamps down on those who cheat the system. People can report fraud by calling the Tax Evasion Hotline on 0800 788 887.”

The fraud stopped in July 2012 after HMRC officers raided Smith’s home. He subsequently set up a limited company and began to register for tax.

Upon sentencing Smith, His Honour Judge Gledhill, said: “I do not accept that you are ignorant; you are an intelligent man and have run a successful business, you knew perfectly well that you needed to pay taxes.”

Ambrose Smith was charged with two counts of cheating the public revenue in July 2013. He pleaded guilty at Southwark Crown Court on 3 November 2014, and was sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on 16 July 2015. At the court hearing last Friday the amount of fraud was agreed at £789,809 and took place from 1997 until 2011.

HMRC will be seeking to recover the proceeds of his crimes, which he invested in property in Gloucestershire.