Lights, camera…jail time: Manchester duo among five men sentenced for £2.8million fake film tax scam

By Mancunian Matters staff

Two men from Manchester are among a gang of five fraudsters who have been jailed today after being found guilty of a £2.8million fake film tax scam.

Ian Sherwood, of Sale, was convicted of one count of conspiracy cheating the public revenue and sentenced three years six months, while Osama Al Baghdady, of Crumpsall was given a four year sentence.

The pair were part of a criminal gang which had attempted to defraud the public purse of nearly £1.5 million in VAT along with nearly £1.3 million in film tax credit claims by pretending to make a film starring a raft of Hollywood A-list actors.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigators found that the film, A Landscape of Lives, was never intended for the big screen and was a sham production.

The only footage shot was seven minutes deemed to be of “completely unusable quality”, filmed in a flat.

Gang leader Bashar Al-Issa, 35, of Maida Vale, London, along with Aoife Madden, of Northern Ireland, Tariq Hassan, of Essex, Sherwood and Al Baghdady, owned Evolved Pictures.

They told their auditors that they had a budget of more than £19 million, provided by a Jordanian company, to produce a blockbuster film in the UK.

Evolved Pictures told HMRC that millions of pounds of work had been spent on the film, including paying actors and film set managers, claiming this meant a VAT repayment was due of £1.48million.

But, during checks HMRC found that the work had not been done and most of the so-called suppliers and film studios had never heard of the gang.

Furthermore, capitalising on a scheme designed to support genuine British film makers, Evolved made fraudulent tax credit claims of £256,385, while preparing to submit a further claim of £1.03million.

After they were arrested, the gang came up with an elaborate plan to cover their tracks and hide the fraud by shooting a film on a shoestring, called A Landscape of Lies, featuring Loose Women presenter Andrea McLean.

All five were convicted earlier this month and sentenced today at Southwark Crown Court.

Image courtesy of NBTV1000 via YouTube, with thanks.

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