VAT pharmacy fraudsters jailed

Two pharmacists who lied about exporting life-saving cancer and HIV medicines to Nigeria have been jailed for six and a half years for fraudulently claiming £300,000 in VAT repayments.

HMRC investigators found that pharmacists Benedict Babundo and Louis Ovonlen, of Addison Healthcare, who ran a Harlow pharmacy, had a contract with the NHS to operate a prescription service to the public.

But they created false invoices for the drugs they claimed to export, to support fraudulent VAT repayments.

Paul Barton, assistant director of criminal investigation at HMRC, said: “They thought they could get away with providing false records to claim VAT refunds, but they are now counting the real cost of their criminality.”

The men obtained falsified documents to help make their fake export business look legitimate by appearing to show that the medicines had been exported.

When sentencing Babundo in Ipswich Crown Court, Recorder Ian Glen said: “You embarked on submitting false claims and only stopped when HMRC reviewed the business in 2011. The fraud was driven by you, without any doubt, you have a long list of company failures. For tactical reasons you kept your distance - employing others to do your work.”

Benedict Babundo, of Plumstead Common, London, was sentenced to four years in prison and disqualified as a company director for seven years.

Louis Ovonlen of Purford Green, Harlow, Essex, was sentenced to 30 months in prison and disqualified as company director for four years.