A husband and wife team from Co Tyrone have been jailed for a total of six years and ordered to pay £4m in unpaid taxes after admitting a £4.6m tax fraud.
Patrick Gerard Small and Mary Elizabeth Small, trading as Greystone Builders Merchants in Dungannon, failed to declare tax worth £4.6m over a period dating back to 1995.
They used an offshore bank account in the Isle of Man and laundered money through property developments in order to dodge their taxes, building 23 houses in Northern Ireland, which remained empty, as well buying valuable antiques and jewellery.
A search of the Smalls' main property recovered over £492,000 from safes which had not been declared as income.
Investigators uncovered a recording of Small meeting a Manx bank official in 2004.
In it, he told the banker he was aware of the taxman, adding: "I told him nothing, I told him I had not a penny about whatsoever."
An HMRC spokeswoman says: "Income tax and VAT fraud are not victimless fiddles and the days are long gone when hiding assets off-shore was seen as a safe bet for evading UK taxes.
"Anyone deliberately setting out to cheat the system by not paying the right amount of tax is taking a huge risk, as we will pursue and bring them to justice."
It has also emerged the couple continued to claim tax benefits during the fraud.
Belfast Crown Court Judge Anthony Hart jailed Patrick Small for three-and-a-half years and Mary Small for two-and-a-half years, saying of Small: "He was prepared in a dishonest and unedifying fashion to shift as much of the blame onto his wife as he could."
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