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New tax-dodgers on most wanted list
Ten new alleged tax-dodgers have been added to the Government's most-wanted list, although just one of the original 20 has been caught in the last year.
Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) last year published the names and pictures of 20 people accused of fleeing while owing hundreds of thousands of pounds - and in many instances millions - for the first time.
The appeal helped provide intelligence on 15 of the alleged offenders, no update on four and one was captured, according to HMRC. A second man not included in the original list of 20 but later said to be on it has also been caught in the last 12 months, the department says.
HMRC has now renewed its appeals on 19 of the suspects while adding 10 new names wanted in connection with offences including VAT fraud, tax evasion and money laundering. The new people listed have cost the taxpayer between £120,000 and £10 million, HMRC claims.
Chancellor George Osborne said the new list will help bring more "tax fraudsters" to justice. But Labour insisted the most-wanted list had been a "huge failure" with so many suspects yet to be caught.
The new list includes Michael George Voudouri, who pleaded guilty at Glasgow High Court in relation to money laundering linked to VAT fraud but failed to appear for sentencing. HMRC said the man, aged between 40 and 50, is believed to be residing in northern Cyprus and is estimated to have cost taxpayers £10 million.
Mr Osborne said: "The Government has stepped up HMRC's enforcement activities to enable them to pursue tax cheats relentlessly around the world. The publication of HMRC's Most Wanted has already helped catch two people wanted for tax fraud. This new list will help put more tax fraudsters in the spotlight and bring them to justice."
But shadow Treasury minister Catherine McKinnell said: "One year on, it's a huge failure that 18 of the 20 most wanted tax fraudsters have still not been caught. At a time when families are facing a cost of living crisis, it's even more important that everyone pays their fair share of tax. The Government needs to do better."
HMRC director of criminal investigations Donald Toon defended progress on bringing those on the list to justice, saying the success rate was "actually quite high".
The location of one individual had been identified thanks to five "very, very useful pieces of information" from the public, he said. But many of those on the list were in countries from which it was "extremely difficult" to get them returned to the UK because of a lack of extradition arrangements and other legal barriers.