Tax dodger must pay up or spend longer in prison

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Investigators have spoken of their sense of satisfaction after a court ordered a crooked tax dodger to pay more than £100,000 in compensation.

And they have called on members of the public who suspect people apparently living beyond their means of being involved in crime to blow the whistle.

Thu Trang Tran, 35, has to stump up £107,230.74 within six months because of deliberate tax evasion on her nail bar businesses including Venus Nails in Lawn Lane, Hemel Hempstead.

A Luton Crown Court judge also made a confiscation order requiring her to pay nearly £37,000 within 28 days, or she will face another 14 months in prison.

The second sum relates to the ill-gotten gains she is said to have made through money laundering offences.

Tran is already serving an 18 month jail term after admitting tax evasion and money laundering along with her husband Anh Cuong Nguyen, 42.

When the couple were first arrested in November 2008 it was discovered that over a five year period the pair had cleared more than £1 million through their bank accounts – including significant amounts of cash.

Police found stacks of banknotes and designer jewellery when they searched their home.

At the time of her arrest, Tran owned a Leighton Buzzard nail salon and was also a director of Venus Nails, while Nguyen was listed as an employee of both establishments.

As well as their Leighton Buzzard home, Tran owned a flat in London which she rented out and had just put down a £25,000 deposit on a new apartment in Hemel Hempstead.

Investigators who pored over their accounts found that their tax returns vastly underestimated their earnings, and called in tax experts to help them.

Sgt Giles Hutchinson, the investigating officer for Bedfordshire Police, said after Friday’s final hearing: “It’s been a long investigation but we’re pleased we’ve been able to bring it to a successful conclusion.

“Tran will have to repay the money she has defrauded, which effectively is money she has taken out of other honest taxpayer’s pockets.

“We have a close working relationship with the UK Border Force and tax authorities and this is one of several high-value cases we have worked on with them

“Bedfordshire Police will also receive a share of the £36,000 confiscation order, which is money that goes straight back into crime fighting in the county.”

Det Chief Insp Shane Roberts, who oversaw the case investigation, added: “We take in excess of £1million of cash and assets from criminals every year so it isn’t just a case of being unlucky to be caught – even small-time petty crooks are in our sights with these POCA hearings.”

“The police are always interested in hearing from members of the public who have suspicions about people who appear to be living an expensive lifestyle with no obvious means of supporting it.

“Contact the police on non-emergency number 101 or through Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.”