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Channel 4 News interviews Giovanna Fiorentino about the Amanda Knox re-trial:
Giovanna Fiorention is interviewed by Sky News about the extradition proceedings involving Julian Assange:
Richard Gowthorpe gives a press statement to the BBC following the arrest of Coronation Street actor, Michael Le Vell, on child sex offences. Mr Le Vell was later acquitted after trial of all the allegations:
R v PK - Southwark Crown Court
How the Sunday Times chose to report this case:
Call girls, cars and champagne — migrant gang's £4.5m tax scam
Ukrainian gang jailed after three-year scam netted members millions of pounds to spend on cars, holidays and prostitutes
Members of the gang celebrate with a restaurant meal
A gang of illegal Ukrainian immigrants managed to defraud the exchequer of £4.5m, spending the proceeds on Caribbean holidays, luxury cars and call girls.
The fraudsters, mostly in their twenties, lived in luxury riverside flats at the taxpayers’ expense and exported hundreds of thousands of public funds back to eastern Europe. Little of the money will be recovered.
Eleven of the group are this weekend beginning prison sentences after pleading guilty to conspiracy to cheat the public revenue and other offences.
HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) took three years to catch up with the gang, which had submitted 1,600 self-assessment tax forms in the names of fictitious migrant labourers, claiming they had overpaid income tax while working in Britain.
More than £4.5m out of at least £8m in fraudulent tax rebates claimed by the gang was paid by HMRC, which described the venture as “a sophisticated cash-rich enterprise”.
The rebates — each worth between £1,000 and £98,000 — were paid into a web of 750 different bank accounts, opened using fraudulent driving licences.
Volodymyr Panchak, the group’s 27-year-old leader, and his accomplices even went to the lengths of registering bogus construction companies in order to convince tax inspectors that their claims were genuine.
The friends spent the money on skydiving trips, spa baths and luxury cars, buying two Porsche Cayennes, a BMW X5 and a Range Rover Sport.
It is understood that several hundred thousand pounds of public money was spent on prostitutes. A spokesman for HMRC said substantial sums were also transferred to associates in Ukraine linked with organised crime.
A trial at Southwark crown court heard last week that Panchak was arrested in March 2009, but continued to manage the gang while in prison awaiting trial.
Four months later HMRC officials raided seven properties in Brentford, west London, finding £361,000 in cash, a total of 80 bank cards and weapons including a samurai sword.
The court was shown a series of “triumphalist photographs” of the gang at a Ukrainian youth club in Derbyshire, enjoying a champagne dinner and frolicking in a hot tub with female companions.
Gang members pose with four jeeps bought using fraudulently claimed cash (The Sunday Times)
The fraudsters also photographed each other posing on the gleaming bonnets of their top-of-the range vehicles.
In another image they are seen giving the thumbs-up shortly before making a parachute jump.
Rosina Cottage, prosecuting for HMRC, said: “They were a group of close friends and family members who used their contacts within the building trade to identify opportunities for fraud.”
When sentencing the gang on Friday afternoon, Judge Christopher Hardy raised concerns about the security of HMRC’s self-assessment system. “Trust has become a very risky and unwise basis in this day and age with which to disperse millions of pounds of public money,” he said.
Addressing the defendants, the judge said: “You came to this country either illegally from the start or remained here illegally. To you it must have seemed as if the streets of London were paved with gold.”
Panchak, who was said in court to be “a strong character and the ringleader of the conspiracy”, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to cheat the public revenue and possession of false documents. He was sentenced to six years and one month.
The remaining 10 members of the gang were jailed for a total of 35 years.
Yuriy Brovarsky, the gang’s 26-year-old book-keeper, had opened at least 40 bank accounts. He was jailed for five years.
Vitalijuis Kostrominas, a 12th member of the group, is still on the run after jumping out of a fourth-floor window during last year’s raids.