Wine fugitive freed from jail after £46m tax dodge
A 61-year-old who went on the run to escape a UK conviction for tax fraud has walked free after serving four years behind bars in Italy.
Livio Mazzarello skipped bail during his Old Bailey trial in 2017 and fled the UK before he could be sentenced to 14 years imprisonment. The light-footed accused, of Cricklewood, North London, sent an email addressed to “the most illustrious judge” claiming that he urgently needed to visit his mother, but instead escaped to the Italian port city of Genoa.
Mazzarello was found guilty in his absence of one count of fraudulent evasion of VAT, and issued a 14-year jail term in in July of that year.
However, after being intercepted in Italy, his birth country, an Italian court reduced Mazarello’s sentence to just eight years, a Proceeds Of Crime Act hearing heard.
The amendment meant Mazzarello was released from prison in Genoa in June 2021 after serving less than four years behind bars.
Prosecutor David Hughes told Judge Philip Katz QC that the Italian court: “took over the enforcement of the sentence but at the time of the indictment the money laundering he was convicted of here (in the UK) was not an offence in Italy.
“The sentence for money laundering was knocked off, and the sentence for VAT was less in Italy than in the United Kingdom.”
Mazzarello’s release under Italian law comes under the condition that he stay at a specified address in the Alessandria region, with a curfew.
Livio Mazzarello and Louisa Mbadugha ran The Italian Wine Company Ltd from premises in Neasden, and used false paperwork and re-used import documents to smuggle large quantities of wine into the UK from Italy. The pair evaded £46.5m in VAT and excise duty, before selling the wine to retailers across the UK.
Mazzarello laundered the proceeds of the fraud through the company using a string of bank accounts and HMRC officers seized 70,000 litres of duty free wine and around £350,000 in cash, hidden in a concealed floor safe and above ceiling tiles at the company’s warehouse.