Five Arrested After Attempted $500k Tax Fraud

Italian and UK police have confirmed the arrest of five individuals suspected of carrying out a “cyber attack” on HM Revenue & Customs as part of an attempted £500,000 tax fraud.

Five men were arrested over the weekend, with one remanded in custody, HMRC said. Searches were carried out in London, Chatham, and Italy following a collaborative investigation into the tax fraud.

Stealing identities for tax fraud

The gang is suspected of acquiring personal data from third parties to set up a number of false Self Assessment accounts with HMRC. The plan was to steal large sums of false tax rebates.

“HMRC’s online systems proved extremely resilient to these attacks – they correctly identified and prevented the vast majority of false repayment attempts from the outset,” said Andrew Sackey, assistant director for criminal investigations at HMRC.

“These arrests clearly demonstrate that we can, and will, apprehend those suspected of attempting to cheat UK taxpayers by defrauding HMRC, with international assistance if necessary.”

It is believed one of the men applied for £500,000 in rebates, running the operation from Bologna. The man, a 35-year-old Nigerian international, was tracked by Italian investigators on his journeys between Italy and London.

The Italian state police responsible for investigating cyber crime said the group had stolen the identities of 700 UK-based individuals.

The crimes he is accused of committing carry a maximum sentence of 14 years.

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Thomas Brewster

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe's Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

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