Media reports confirmed that a 35-year-old man from Bologna, Italy, was charged with cheating HM Revenue and Customs and is currently in custody after investigators arrested him upon landing at Stansted airport. 4 other members were also arrested at Stansted, London and Kent, but were released on bail. Italian police revealed that the men were of Nigerian origin. The officers responsible for investigating online crime explained that the individual in Bologna had applied for £500,000 in rebates and had received over £100,000 within a year after stealing the identity of 700 British citizens. UK investigators traced the suspicious applications from the Internet and came to Italy this past May to meet a local prosecutor.
HM Revenue and Customs is at the moment investigating a so-called “cyber attack” by a group suspected of illegally obtaining personal information in order to set up false self-assessment accounts with the authority, starting over the 2012 Royal Jubilee weekend. The intent was to steal false tax rebates.
According to assistant director of criminal investigation, the online systems of the authority proved extremely resilient to such cyber attacks, so they correctly identified and prevented most of false repayment attempts from the outset. The authority confirmed that the arrests in question clearly demonstrate people suspected of attempting to cheat British taxpayers by defrauding HMRC will be caught, with international assistance in case of necessity.
The Italian investigators identified their suspect and then tracked him by the communications police from his apartment on the city’s outskirts. It turned out that he flew frequently to the UK. After his arrest, Italian officials together with two British customs and revenue officials searched his house and seized electronic devices. It was quite a modest apartment shared by the suspect with his wife, mother-in-law and two kids. The Italian official suggested that there must be a fault in the British system to allow this kind of fraud, because Italy hasn’t seen this kind of crime as this kind of operation remains more paper-based there.