LONDON (Reuters) - British authorities said on Friday they had captured one of their ‘most wanted’ tax criminals and added 10 new names to a list of high-priority targets who are accused of cheating the government out of hundreds of millions of pounds.
Anthony Judge, who had spent 10 years in hiding after fleeing money laundering charges, was detained when trying to enter Britain on a forged passport on July 4, the finance ministry said.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, looking to boost public coffers and win voter support, has been coordinating a global push for tighter international taxation rules to weed out criminal activity as well as curb legal corporate tax avoidance.
Tobacco smugglers, company directors and money launderers featured among the new members of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC) ‘most wanted’ list - a compilation of 30 people suspected of, or found guilty of, tax crimes worth a total of 725 million pounds ($1.1 billion).
“Our message is clear; tax fraud and evasion is illegal and will not be tolerated,” said Finance Minister George Osborne. “The government has stepped up HMRC’s enforcement activities to enable them to pursue tax cheats relentlessly around the world.”
The clampdown on tax avoidance and evasion was a major issue at the Group of Eight wealthy economies summit in June and has won voter support in Britain.
The high-profile HMRC list, styled on the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) long-running ‘Ten Most Wanted Fugitives’ list, was launched in 2012 and asks the public to supply information that could help track down its members.
Judge, whose case had one of the lowest values on the list with an estimated cost to the taxpayer of 350,000 pounds, was the second person detained since the list was released. He was added to the list in May when John Nugent, guilty of a 22 million-pound fraud, was jailed for four-and-a-half years after being caught in the United States.
Britain’s opposition Labour party said catching only two targets was a ‘huge failure’.
HMRC said it had received new information on 17 of the original 20 fugitives, who are now believed to be hiding in countries around the globe, including Dubai, Switzerland and Tunisia. As many as nine on the list could still be in Britain. ($1 = 0.6445 British pounds)
editing by Ron Askew