A bar and garage owner who fraudulently avoided more than £340,000 in tax and national insurance by failing to register the premises has been jailed for four years.
Bernard Knutsen, 68, admitted evading the duties in relation to Chaplin’s Bar and the garage, both in Toxteth, Liverpool, over more than five years.
He also fraudulently claimed more than £85,000 in social security benefits – including council tax benefit, pension credit and income support - over more than a decade by failing to declare he was working.
His wife Maureen Knutsen, 62, and daughter Kelly Knutsen, 39, were both convicted of related charges following trials at Liverpool Crown Court. Kelly’s former boyfriend Gary Hyland, 50, whose name was on the bank account of Chaplin’s Bar, was convicted of linked benefit fraud offences.
At the sentencing hearing on Friday (December 1), the court heard how as a result of his deceit Bernard and Maureen Knutsen were able to pay for holidays to destinations including Dubai, Las Vegas and the Far East. The Knutsens also spent thousands on private school fees and a new kitchen.
During a search of the Knutsens’ home in Fell Street, Liverpool, investigators found almost £40,000 in cash concealed in the bedroom, split across handbags and above a wardrobe.
Stephane Pendered, from the CPS, said:
“Through failing to declare his income, Bernard Knutsen deliberately cheated taxpayers out of more than £425,000 in order to fund his lavish lifestyle.
“The prosecution case showed how Knutsen, along with the other defendants, showed a total disregard for the rules on tax and benefits in order to achieve significant financial gain for themselves.”
The prosecution followed a joint investigation by fraud investigators from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, Liverpool City Council and the Department for Work and Pensions.
Action to recover the funds under the Proceeds of Crime Act is now under way.
Notes to Editors
· Stephane Pendered is a Specialist Prosecutor with the CPS Specialist Fraud Division.
· Bernard Knutsen pleaded guilty to nine charges at Liverpool Crown Court in April 2015. The charges were being knowingly concerned in the evasion of VAT and income tax, the fraudulent evasion of national insurance contributions and dishonestly making false representations for the purpose of obtaining benefit. He was sentenced to four years in prison on Friday 1 December.
· Kelly Knutsen was convicted of fraudulently claiming £82,811.36 in benefits and of money laundering offences following a trial at Liverpool Crown Court which concluded in March 2017. She was sentenced to 21 months in prison, suspended for two years.
· Maureen Knutsen was convicted of being knowingly concerned in the fraudulent evasion of VAT and dishonestly making a false representation for the purpose of obtaining benefit following a trial at Liverpool Crown Court which concluded in March 2017. She was sentenced to three years in prison.
· Gary Hyland pleaded guilty at Liverpool Crown Court in August 2016 to fraudulently claiming £16,161.68 in social security benefits and to an offence of fraud by false representation on a loan application. In May 2017 he was sentenced to a two-year community order with a 12-month supervision requirement and a three-month curfew period.