HMRC's stated policy is to deal with fraud using Civil Investigation of Fraud (CIF) procedures, wherever appropriate. Although HMRC generally reserve Criminal Investigation for instances where a criminal sentence necessary, they do have a complete discretion to conduct criminal investigations in any case in respect of a wide range of offences covering the ambit of areas governed by HMRC.
HMRC will generally commence a criminal investigation in these types of instances:
- Where there is evidence or suspicion of organised gangs involved in systematic frauds.
- Where there is evidence or a suspicion that an offence has been committed by an individual who holds a position of trust or responsibility;
- Where statements are made or documents provided in the course of a civil investigation, which transpire to be false in a material particular.
- Where material facts are misrepresented or documents altered to enhance the credibility of an avoidance scheme, where reliance is placed on that altered statement or misrepresentation; or
- Where there is a suspicion that deliberate concealment, deception, conspiracy or corruption has occurred;
- Where there is a suspicion or evidence that documents have been falsified or forged;
- Where there is a suspicion that there has been a breach of importation or exportation prohibitions and restrictions;
- Any instance where there is a suspicion that a professional (accountants, solicitor and others acting in a ‘professional’ capacity) have facilitated or have assisted in money laundering;
- Where there has been previous offences / or there is a repeated course of unlawful conduct involving the same individual(s) or where there has been previous civil action;
- Where there has been a theft, or the misuse or un lawful destruction of HMRC documents;
- Where there has been an attempt to breach the integrity of HMRC. For example, assaults or threats to, or the impersonation of HMRC officials;
- Where there is a suspicion of a link to wider criminality involving offences not under the administration of HMRC.
Given the fact that one of the factors that HMRC will take into account when considering whether a case should be the subject of a criminal investigation or whether it should be investigated under the Civil Investigation of Fraud procedures, will be whether there has been a complete and unprompted disclosure of the offences committed, it is imperative to discuss your options with us as soon as possible so that we may advise on the possibilities of avoiding Criminal Sanctions.
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