A former Ascot-based property developer, who hijacked details of an offshore company in the British Virgin Islands and forged documents to commit fraud and evade VAT, has been jailed for three years and seven months. He was also trading while disqualified as a company director.HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigators discovered that in June 2011 Keith Conner, 55, hijacked the details of the British Virgin Islands registered company, Pruton Investment Holding Ltd, to buy and sell a residential property in Thurloe Square, Kensington, London. Conner then forged a Power of Attorney document, in the name of a Malaysian businessman, to transfer the £309,000 profit from the London sale into a company bank account he controlled.
A similar property deal in October 2011 involved the purchase and immediate sale of a business property in Earls Court Road, Kensington. Conner again hijacked the details of a company to commit the fraud, this time a UK based company, Bishopsgate Homes Ltd. Investigations showed that signatures had been forged on the contracts, leading to £331,000 in profit from the sale being paid into another bank account Conner controlled. The directors of the UK business had no involvement with their company being used for such a transaction.
None of the profit from either sale was declared to HMRC, meaning the tax wasn’t paid, and as a business property, VAT was due on the Earls Court Road purchase and sale. Conner failed to declare or pay this money to HMRC, evading £150,000 in VAT.
Conner also used counterfeit ‘proof of funds’ letters to carry out the fraud and was trading while disqualified as a company director.
Conner, who lived an affluent lifestyle in his multi-million pound former Ascot home, pleaded guilty to five offences at Reading Crown Court in January 2016 and was jailed for three years and seven months at Reading Crown Court on 21 April 2017.
Sentencing had been delayed to allow Conner time to sell his Ascot home to pay any future confiscation order, which was set at £640,709 at the sentencing hearing. This includes £150,000 to be paid to HMRC for the VAT evaded. Conner was further disqualified as a company director for seven years.