A father and son who ran businesses that bought and sold horse boxes have been sentenced after an investigation into a £1.5 million VAT fraud.

Geoffrey Butchers, 71, of Daventry, Northamptonshire, failed to declare any sales for his Horseboxseller business between 2007 and 2015 and both he and his son, Phillip, 30, lived a lavish lifestyle with the proceeds of the crime.

They drove around in Ferrari and Aston Martin cars and Phillip Butchers spent thousands of pounds on designer clothes, whilst holidaying in Rio de Janeiro and Abu-Dhabi.

Geoffrey Butchers also lied about the true value of sales on a second business they set up in 2015, under the name Horseboxseller Ltd.

Geoffrey Butchers pleaded guilty to VAT fraud in January 2018 and Phillip pleaded guilty to money laundering charges on 5 August, 2019. Both men received sentences at Northampton Crown Court yesterday (4 September 2019).

Geoffrey Butchers was jailed for 26 months, and Phillip Butchers was handed a 20-month prison sentence suspended for two years, ordered to do 180 hours unpaid work and pay costs of £2,000.

Nick Stone, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said:

“This fraud funded an extravagant lifestyle these men could not legitimately afford.

“They hid more than £40,000 in a bathroom safe and drove around in supercars whilst other honest, hard-working people paid the taxes they owed.

“We will now do all we can to recover the stolen cash from this father and son.”

Investigators from HMRC searched the family home in July 2016 and recovered £42,000 from a safe hidden inside Phillips’s en-suite bathroom. The men refused to hand over the codes, but it was eventually opened and the money has since been forfeited.

Geoffrey Butchers first registered Autojoint for VAT in 2004 but then deregistered the company three years later and told HMRC he had stopped trading.

He continued to trade the business until 2015 but failed to submit any VAT returns. He then registered the Horseboxseller business for VAT in 2015, but lied on the subsequent returns. Action to recover more than £1.5 million of stolen money is now underway.