David Jetuah, Accountancy Age, Wednesday 30 June 2010 at 13:03:00

London accountant, Christos Charalambous has been jailed for eight years forstealing 11m in income tax and VAT by "manipulating both his clients? and hisown tax returns"

A London accountant has been jailed for eight years for stealing 11m inincome tax and Value Added Tax by manipulating both his clients? and his own taxreturns.

Christos Charalambous, 58, of Palmers Green, London was found guilty on sixcounts of cheating the public purse at Blackfriars Crown Court following a trialthat lasted seven weeks.

The taxman said Charalambous completed over 6,000 self assessment tax returnsfor clients which included fictitious expenses claims in order to increase thetax repayments due.

He also understated the income he received from client fees on his personalreturns and failed to register, declare and pay VAT due on his accountancy firm?Charltons.?

Many of Charalambous? clients were from other EU countries and had littleunderstanding of the UK tax system, HM Revenue & Customs said.

Steve Armitt, assistant director of criminal investigation for HMRC, said:

"Charalambous is a thoroughly dishonest accountant who was motivated bygreed. He betrayed the trust of innocent and vulnerable people to feed thatgreed. This deprived the nation's public services of millions of pounds.

"Our aim is to pursue and prosecute those involved in this type of criminalactivity and reclaim the proceeds of their crime."

The court heard how Charalambous would submit tax returns for his clients tothe Inland Revenue (up to April 2005) and HMRC (from April 2005) without showinghis clients what information he was including.

He would then receive the repayments from IR/HMRC, deduct a minimum of 15%fee and repay the remainder to his clients, who would not question the amountrefunded as they trusted him to complete the returns correctly.

The total amount of repayment claimed by Charalambous on his clients? behalfwas 11,222,472.

Between 1997/98 and 2004/05, he understated client fee income on his own SelfAssessment tax returns by 807,406. He also failed to declare and pay 180,082VAT due to HMRC, the taxman said.

On passing sentence, His Honour Judge Richardson said: "The offences are moreserious as you were a chartered accountant. HM Revenue & Customs ought to beable to trust you as should your clients.

"You exposed them to the dishonesty that you practice. With tax enquiries,you responded with evasion and lies."