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Essex charity tax conman sentenced

24th Oct 2014
Freelance journalist
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The principal trustee of a charity, who tried to steal over £100,000 in a fraud involving tax relief on gift aid, has been sentenced after an investigation by HMRC.

Earlier in October, Eyob Ghebre Sellassie, from Rainham, Essex, was sentenced in Kingston Crown Court to 15 months in prison for two counts of fraud, both suspended for two years.

He was disqualified from being a company director for five years.

Sellassie submitted two gift aid declarations for 1,300 fictitious donations to African Aids Action, totalling £416,074.

The false claims resulted in a gift aid tax repayment of £104,018 he wasn’t entitled to.

Peter Milroy, HMRC’s assistant director, criminal investigation, said it was a “despicable crime” which used identities of innocent taxpayers to steal from the nation’s finances while pretending to support vulnerable people overseas with serious health issues.

Sellassie purchased the names and addresses of 5,000 people to fabricate donations.

He used 1,300 of those names and addresses to support his illegal gift aid tax relief claims. Evidence gathered by HMRC confirmed the donations had not been made.

African Aids Action Limited’s stated aim was the “relief of people suffering from HIV, particularly those from Africa and the Caribbean, by providing a confidential mother tongue counselling and advice service and by improving access to HIV and AIDS treatment in Africa,” HMRC said.

The charity was de-registered by the Charity Commission and removed as a charitable organisation three days after Sellassie was arrested by HMRC in September 2013.