Bid to cheat UK taxman with film scam lands five in jail

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 March, 2013, 3:26am


Five people have been jailed for up to six-and-a-half years in Britain for pretending to make a Hollywood blockbuster to secure millions of pounds in tax breaks from the government.

They had told tax inspectors that their film, Landscape of Lives, had a budget of £19.6 million (HK$231.5 million) and involved veteran actor Jeremy Irons.

To lend credibility to the scam, an innocent writer was hired to pen the script and he was told it would be filmed in Egypt and would star Omar Sharif, a court in London heard on Monday. In fact, only seven minutes was ever shot and the footage, filmed in a flat at a cost of just several thousand pounds, was of "completely unusable quality", the court heard.

The fraudsters used fake documents to apply for special tax breaks for the film industry, submitting or preparing to submit claims worth £2.78 million, although they only received £800,000.

"This was an extraordinary scheme created to attack the public purse," said Sue Patten, head of fraud at the Crown Prosecution Service.

There was no suggestion that Irons or Sharif were involved.