Five men, who were directors of five Liverpool based companies, have been disqualified for a total of 33 years for their part in a VAT scam on the sale of imported vehicles and for failing to maintain accounting records or exercise proper control over the companies.

The disqualifications follow investigations by the Insolvency Service.

Commenting on the disqualifications, Ken Beasley, of the Insolvency Services Public Interest Unit said:

These disqualified directors allowed the companies to be involved in a scam to defraud the public purse and failed to maintain proper accounting records. This is not victimless misconduct but something that adversely affects all honest tax payers and companies that play by the rules.

Some of these individuals acted on the instructions of unscrupulous third parties, turning a blind eye to the activities of the companies and paying no attention to their responsibilities as company directors.

The Insolvency Service will not hesitate to use its enforcement powers to remove irresponsible and culpable directors from the business environment.

Jon Joseph Dann (age 33), Alan Birtles (46), Mark Price (38), Adam Doyle (25) and James Ball (52), all of Liverpool, have been disqualified from acting as directors for between five to seven years having also failed to submit VAT returns on behalf of the companies. Both Mr Ball and Mr Doyle were also ordered to pay the costs of Court proceedings leading to the disqualifications.

The companies, Centrix Commercials Ltd, Kirbrook Limited, Simonscroft Limited, Urban Vehicle Contracts Limited and Vehicle Solutions Limited all failed to account to HM Revenue & Customs, as they were required to do for VAT after selling on vehicles obtained from Europe to UK customers. The companies were all wound up by the court owing a total of 3,591,015 to creditors.

The investigation found that the directors set up the companies and bank accounts, although their role in the actual trading of the companies was limited to arranging bank account transactions and, in some cases, submitting VAT returns to HMRC, which significantly understated both sales and VAT owed.

The lack of proper accounting records meant that Investigators were unable to establish from the companies records the reasons for cash withdrawals and other non-business related payments. Details of the vehicles purchased and sold could not be determined and there was no evidence that the companies had complied with import regulations.