FOURTEEN people have been arrested during dawn raids in Yorkshire as part of an investigation into a suspected multimillion-pound landfill tax fraud.
Around 180 officers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and local police officers descended on properties across the region.
The investigation, which is looking at a suspected £78m fraud, targeted six commercial and eight residential addresses in Leeds, Hull, Gateshead, Middlesbrough, Washington and Hartlepool.
Among those arrested were a 43-year-old man from Beverley, a 40-year-old man from Melton, East Yorkshire, a 43-year-old man from Anlaby, East Yorkshire, a 23-year-old man from Willerby, East Yorkshire and a 49-year-old man from Hull.
Landfill tax involves the deliberate misclassification of waste, with material that should attract the standard rate of Landfill Tax instead being passed off as inert material qualifying for the lower rate.
Waste classified as inert is eligible for the lower rate of Landfill Tax, which at £2.50 per tonne is a substantial saving against the 2013/14 standard rate of tax of £72 per tonne.
Simon York, director at the HMRC fraud investigation service, said: “Today’s activities are the culmination of 18 months painstaking investigation into the suspected systematic abuse of the landfill tax system.
“We believe that over £78 million revenue may be involved, money which could be used to fund some of the UK’s most vital public services.
“No one is above paying their fair and legal share of tax, as the rest of us do, and we are closing in on those who try to cheat the system.
“HMRC, working with our law enforcement partners, will do everything within our power to catch those involved in tax fraud of any kind, and will push for the strongest punishments through the court.”
In total 11 men and three women were arrested, ranging from 23 to 49-years-old.
A spokesman for the Environment Agency said: “The Environment Agency is supporting HMRC in a major operation at locations across Yorkshire and the North East.
“We are working closely with our partner organisations to help stamp out landfill tax evasion.”
According to a recent report by the Environmental Services Association Education Trust, the annual costs of illegal waste sites, fly-tipping and Landfill Tax evasion each exceed £100 million per year.
Its report said: “Waste crime in the UK is widespread and endemic. It takes many different forms: at one end, a builder saving a few pounds by fly-tipping rubble in a local field; at the other, illegal waste sites processing thousands of tonnes of waste, and seemingly legitimate operators misclassifying waste in order to evade a tax bill that could total many millions of pounds.”