A team of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officers have undertaken a crackdown on tax and benefit fraud in the North East of Scotland implicating several companies engaged in Scotland’s fishing industry, including crews, fishing vessel owners and fish processors.
The taskforce, codenamed “Operation Regor”, is thought to have uncovered tax fraud potentially costing the UK GBP3.6m. The investigation saw participation from HMRC, Police Scotland, the Border Force, the Home Office Immigration Enforcement department, Aberdeenshire Council and the Gangmaster Licensing Authority.
Over three days, HMRC officers probed the operations of four fish processing factories, eleven fishing vessels and two houses of multiple occupancy (HMO). The operation also aimed to identify occurrences of migrant labor abuse through fraudulent access to benefits and public services or by exploitative employers or landlords.
Over 300 employees were interviewed during the visits to the factories and HMRC is now pursuing leads on HMO abuses and benefit and credit irregularities. HMRC’s Road Fuel Testing Unit tested 36 large goods vehicles and two vehicles were seized for running on illegal fuel.
HMRC’s Jennie Granger, Director General for Enforcement and Compliance, said: “Our message is clear — if you seek to evade tax or defraud the tax system, HMRC can and will track you down. You will face not only a heavy fine, but possibly a criminal prosecution as well.”
“Working with other Government departments and agencies will mean there is a coordinated approach to dealing with the risks in this industry and to level the tax playing field for taxpayers who are doing the right thing.”
Detective Inspector Kevin Goldie, the Police Scotland Operational lead for Operation Regor added: “Operation Regor is an intelligence led operation aimed at tackling those who benefit financially from their criminal activity.”