A former police officer has admitted a £300 million VAT fraud believed to be the biggest in UK history.
Nigel Cranswick, 47, was a director of Ideas 2 Go (I2G), which he ran from a small office in a Sheffield business park, and claimed to have bought and sold at least £2 billion of goods in just eight months.
He has since admitted the firm’s trading, largely in mobile phones and computer software, was fictitious, and the aim was to generate paperwork from fake sales in order to claim back a fortune in VAT from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).
A source close to the case, which has taken five years to investigate, said it was believed to be the largest of its kind ever taken to court.
Prosecution documents said: “In its eight-month trading life I2G’s business documentation reveals that it purported to buy and sell goods in many thousands of deals, to the value of at least £2 billion.
“This included about £300m of VAT, which it was purportedly charged by its suppliers.
“The trade was not genuine and this £300m was the target of the defendants.”
The document continues: “Despite this phenomenal turnover of over £2 billion, I2G operated from a very small and modest office accommodation in a Sheffield business park.
“The defendants, who were its officers and employees and purported to carry out billions of pounds of business, had no previous experience in either the mobile phone industry or in running any business on such a grand scale.”
Cranswick, of Danby Road, Kiveton, Sheffield, admitted conspiracy to cheat HMRC.
Brian Olive, 56, of Buttermere Close, Doncaster, and Darren Smyth, 42, of Beech Road, Maltby, Rotherham, admitted the same charge.
Cranswick’s 44-year-old sister Clare Reid, of the same address as Smyth, admitted two counts of false accounting.
They pleaded guilty on the eve of a trial at Newcastle Crown Court and will be sentenced, along with two other defendants, next month.
Paul Rooney, HM Revenue & Customs assistant director for criminal investigation, said: “This was a sophisticated fraud designed to steal hundreds of millions of pounds of tax.
“HMRC investigators unravelled a complex web of fake business transactions fabricated to conceal the massive financial fraud.”