Wine fraudster sentenced in absentia

An Italian wine fraudster who smuggled millions of pounds worth of wine into the UK has been sentenced to 14 years in jail – even though he has fled the country.

Livio Mazzarello and Louisa Mbadugha. Both have now been sentenced and given prison terms although Mazzarello has been missing for a month now having fled during the trial.

Livio Mazzarello was sentenced at the end of last week for his role in founding and running a wine importing business that committed a £46.5 million tax fraud between 2008 and 2013. His sentencing took into account evasion of excise duty, evasion of VAT and money laundering. His accountant, Louisa Mbadugha, was also sentenced at the same time.

His business, The Italian Wine Company, was found to have been engaging in large-scale fraud after a joint investigation by the Italian Customs Authority and HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) that began in spring 2013.

Simon York, director of the Fraud Investigation Service at HMRC, said: “Mazzarello and Mbadugha thought they had developed the perfect scheme to divert millions of pounds from public finances. They were stealing from the taxpayer and undercutting legitimate traders.

“The money they stole should have gone to fund vital public services, not straight into their pockets. They believed they could continue without fearing their criminal activities would be detected. They were wrong and we are working to reclaim any money they made from their crimes.”

Mazzarello and Mbadugha were both found guilty of the fraud last month soon after which Mazzarello absconded. A European-wide warrant for his arrest has since been issued.

Mbadugha, however, was present at her sentencing last Friday (14 July) at the Old Bailey where she was jailed for three and a half years.

Judge Philip Katz QC commented: “You were foolish to be charmed by crooks. Your role (in keeping records) was critical otherwise this fraud could not have happened. Going to prison will have a profound effect on those you know and your standing in the community which has been destroyed.”

York concluded: “We urge any member of the public who may have information about Mazzarello’s whereabouts or anyone committing tax fraud to get in contact with us by calling 0800 788 887.”

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