A Hollywood conman has been jailed for three years and eight months after stealing £1.6 million in VAT from the UK taxpayer while living a life of luxury in the United States.

Sri-Lankan-born Damita Nikapota, 47, is believed to have spent the proceeds of his crime on a Hollywood lifestyle which included a Spanish-style villa in Malibu, California, and extensive travel to places such as the Cannes Film Festival and Sri Lanka.

Nikapota made a number of fraudulent VAT repayment claims beginning in 2006 via his Los Angeles-based film company, AS Productions Limited, for film production costs totalling more than £11 million. He claimed to be involved in, among other film projects, the production and filming of a movie called ‘The Flying Scotsman’ in Britain.

Nikapota claimed his production costs included the employment of famous Hollywood actors and work on adaptations of books by well-known authors. He also impersonated other Hollywood producers, some of them dead, when he contacted HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), in order to validate and progress his claims.

However, an HMRC investigation discovered that Nikapota had been removed from the ‘The Flying Scotsman’ film project and several of his companies linked to it were already in administration by 2005. He was arrested by HMRC in April 2014, when he came to the UK for a short visit from Canada.

Joe Rawbone, Assistant Director, Criminal Investigation, HMRC, said:

“As we delved deeper into these VAT claims, the stories Nikapota had told us began to unravel and the plot began to thicken. Every single claim and shred of paperwork submitted by this man was fictitious.

“Not only will he spend significant time behind bars, but he faces full confiscation proceedings to recover the money he stole from UK taxpayers.

“HMRC will continue to pursue fraudsters wherever they may be and make them face justice for perpetrating damaging attacks on the nation’s finances.”