One of the UK’s most wanted tax fugitives, who escaped to Ireland 12 years ago, is finally behind bars for committing a £5 million tax fraud.
We are delighted to be giving O’Connor the birthday present he deserves – a prison cell– Gary Forbes, HMRC Fraud Investigation Service assistant director
Former construction company boss, Thomas O’Connor, 52, was convicted in London of cheating the public revenue but fled before he was jailed for four-and-a-half years, after a HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigation.
O’Connor was tracked down in Ireland by specialist HMRC officers, but then launched a seven-year legal battle in 2011 to try and block his extradition.
He appealed his case through the Irish court system and ultimately to the European Court of Justice but his case was dismissed.
He has now been returned to the UK to begin his jail term and appeared in court on Friday (November 2) where his sentence was confirmed, HMRC said.
Gary Forbes, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: "We are delighted to be giving O’Connor the birthday present he deserves – a prison cell. He resorted to a series of desperate legal claims in a bid to cheat justice but he’s finally where he belongs.
"O’Connor was behind a systematic attack on the public purse. He and his criminal partners stole the equivalent of the starting salary of 216 police officers. The stolen money paid for an off-the-books workforce and funded lifestyles they couldn’t legitimately afford.
"We will relentlessly pursue fugitives who think they can dodge UK justice. Our message to others like O’Connor is very simple. We will keep pursuing you, no matter how long it takes."
O’Connor, who was living in London during his trial in 2006, was convicted of a large scale subcontractor fraud between September 2002 and December 2004 along with two others.
The trio, who were directors of construction industry firms, produced bogus invoices to make false returns through the Construction Industry Scheme.
O’Connor was convicted after a six-week trial and was bailed following conviction. But he failed to attend sentencing and a warrant for his arrest was issued in December 2006.
HMRC secured a confiscation order against O’Connor in 2007 to make him repay the stolen money. He was originally ordered to repay £4.2 million, but this has risen to £7.9 million with interest.
If he does not pay the order, he will spend another five years in prison and still owe the money.
Image: The case went all the way to the European Court of Justice, pictured here (sprklg/Creative Commons/CC BY-SA 2.0)