A businessman who masterminded a £34 million VAT scam has been ordered to pay back just £980,000 after a court heard he had blown the rest on a lavish champagne lifestyle.
Thomas Scragg, 56, was jailed for 17 years after being convicted of leading one of the biggest scams in British fraud history.
The career criminal – who had Jimmy White as his best man at his wedding – spent £14 million living the high-life in glitzy London hotels and restaurants as well as splashing out on luxury cars.
The conman also spent fortunes in swanky casinos and paid thousands for sporting memorabilia – including Amir Khan’s boxing gloves and Diego Maradona’s shorts.
After conning the Inland Revenue over a five year period he was finally caught when his henchmen Carl and Anthony Johnson were heard boasting by neighbours: “crime does pay.”
A police investigation then exposed his criminal empire and officers uncovered another £8 million of stolen PAYE tax in a ten-month period from April 2007 and February 2008.
Scragg, from Solihull West Mids., was jailed for 13 years in November 2010 and was given a further four years in March 2011 – making it the second-longest sentence ever received in the UK for a white-collar crime.
But reporting restrictions were only lifted in July this year after the convictions of gangster brothers Carl, 49, and Anthony, 51, for money laundering.
A Proceeds of Crime hearing heard Rolex-wearing Scragg had just £982,247 left in assets.
He has now been given just six months to pay up or face a further three years in jail.
David Farrer QC, prosecuting, said Scragg’s ill-gotten gains had been “hugely reduced“ by the lifestyle he had pursued due to his “enormous expenditure“.
The crown are already in possession of Scragg’s property worth just over £730,000 and is now looking to recoup cash gifts made during the fraud – totalling £252,566.
Detective Chief Inspector Shaun Edwards from West Midlands Police, said at the time of the convictions: “This was fraud and money laundering on a massive scale; it deprived the public purse of millions of pounds and Scragg’s audacity is shown by the fact he continued the fraud in various guises even after he knew he was being investigated.
“A number of my officers have devoted the last five-and-a-half years to bringing these men to justice and I’m pleased that we can now tell the world about the extent of their crimes for the first time.
“Carl and Anthony Johnson flaunted their wealth for the local Wolverhampton community to see – which is what ultimately led to their downfall. It was the law-abiding citizens of the city who came to us demanding answers about how the Johnsons were increasing their wealth.
“They were once heard to joke ‘crime does pay’, they now have plenty of time behind bars to reconsider this opinion.”
Scragg enlisted the Johnson brothers for protection after surviving a kidnap attempt.
They were paid £2.4 million by Scragg for their protection services and lived extravagant lifestyles as a result.
The notorious brothers kitted out their homes in Wolverhampton, West Mids., with state-of-the art security equipment.
Carl had bulletproof glass put in his home, while Anthony rebuilt his house – installing a cinema room, stables and dog kennels.
They also drove around in expensive cars including a Lamborghini Murcielago, Bentley Continental, Porsche Cayenne and Ferrari Spider.
In July this year they were jailed for two years and nine months, after being found guilty of money laundering.
The six other men involved in Scragg’s scams were all jailed for between two and a half and six years.
David Wilson-Gill, 40, of Ormskirk, Lancashire, found guilty of conspiracy to cheat HMRC and sentenced to four years in prison.
Andrew Savin, 47, of Yardley, Birmingham, found guilty of conspiracy to cheat HMRC and sentenced to five years in prison.
Alfred Namutulo, 59, of Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, found guilty of conspiracy to
cheat HMRC and sentenced to six years in prison.
George White, 64, of Rashwood, Droitwich, found guilty of money laundering and sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison.
Bruce Hartle, 54, of Great Barr, Birmingham, found guilty of money laundering and sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison.
Steven Oakley, 56, of Little Wratting, Haverhill, Suffolk, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to cheat HMRC and was given a suspended sentence.