Disgraced former Leeds businessman Jason Butler ordered to pay back £1.1 million over international fraud which funded lavish lifestyle and flash cars
A former high-flying Leeds businessman who masterminded a sophisticated international VAT fraud to fund a lavish lifestyle of flash cars and a luxury Spanish home has been ordered to pay £1.1m under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Jason Butler is currently serving a nine-year prison sentence for the fraud which was estimated to be worth £9.8 million.
The 49-year-old was jailed in 2018 after a court heard how he created hundreds of false invoices to steal millions of pounds in VAT and tried to hide the scam in a complex trading chain involving companies in the UK, Gibraltar, Spain and the US.
Butler told Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs he bought almost £60 million worth of personal data, but checks revealed this was a lie.
In reality he was forging purchase invoices to falsely reclaim VAT and trading very cheap raw data through a complex international supply chain in a bid to hide his crimes.
Butler, who previously ran a number of companies in Yorkshire which were part of Jump Group Ltd, used money from the fraud to fund a vast portfolio of properties in Leeds, a luxury Spanish home, a collection of sports cars and a speedboat.
Butler controlled a company called Multi Level Media (MLM), based at Britannia House in Leeds.
He said he bought and sold valuable Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) customer data from nine UK companies via an international agency which he also controlled, between November 2011 and January 2015.
However, checks with the companies revealed that no trade ever took place and Butler had created hundreds of phoney invoices.
Instead he was buying and selling cheap raw data to a series of firms in the UK, who then sold it to a respectable data company in Gibraltar.
The data was sold by them to a company in the US, which was also controlled by Butler.
Each step of the transaction chain was arranged and controlled by Butler.
He created this series of transactions to try and hide his fraud by involving several companies, some of which had an established tax history with HMRC.
On paper it appeared the fraudster had paid substantial amounts of VAT.
But the purchases were fake and backed up by forged invoices, which he used to falsely reclaim £9,875,806 in VAT.
Butler used money from the fraud to fund his collection of super-cars including a Ferrari Fiorano FI, Ferrari 360, Mercedes SL350, and a Lamborghini Murcielago.
He also owned a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow, a speedboat, a luxurious home in Marbella and 96 properties in Leeds.
He was arrested by police at Manchester Airport when he arrived into the UK from Malaga on 18 January 2015.
Butler was found guilty at Leeds Crown Court of VAT fraud after a trial at Leeds Crown Court.
Butler's case was returned to to the court yesterday (April 26) for a confiscation hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Ian Cook, prosecuting, said Butler had benefited from the offending to the sum of £5,915,191.
Mr Cook said Butler had £1,112,670 of assets available to be seized.
Butler was not present at court for the hearing.
Judge Rodney Jameson QC ordered that Butler pay the lower amount within three months or face up to a further seven years in custody.
Butler also faces a serious crime prevention order hearing at the court on May 24 this year.
The prison sentence he received three years ago represented a spectacular fall from grace for the man who was once one of the biggest names in the Yorkshire property market.
But back in the heady days of 2003, with the property boom in full swing and the recession yet to bite, life was sweet for self-made Butler.The Park Lane College graduate grew up above his parents' fish and chip shop, left school at 16 and became a partner in finance firm J Rothschild Assurance when he was just 21.
The Yorkshire Post interviewed Butler, then 31 and a married father of two children, in his plush Leeds office.
At the time, he was driving a Porsche Turbo and gave his favourite film as Heat - a 1995 crime thriller about a professional thief who robs $1.6 million in bearer bonds from an armoured car.
But the bubble was soon to burst for Jump - it went into administration in 2005 with significant debts, blaming a downturn in the market.
The company agreed to give undertakings to the Office of Fair Trading after a series of customer complaints.
It was in consultation with the OFT from 2004, and collapsed a year later.
Angry creditors were left thousands of pounds out of pocket but a deal saw its assets sold to company founder and former managing director Butler, who was a shareholder in the business.
The deal meant staff kept their jobs and the collapse was blamed on the downturn in the housing market which left the firm unable to pay its bills.
Its debts at the time were put at £4.5million.
Butler formed a new company – Jazbut plc – which continued to trade as Jump.
The OFT was advised that it was Butler’s intention that Jazbut plc should provide the OFT with identical undertakings to those being sought from his former company, Jump Group Ltd.
Butler's name cropped up again in 2008, when he was criticised for his apparent neglect of a Grade II-listed building.
He purchased the historic York Road Baths, a swimming pool and library built in 1903 but disused since the 1970s, from the council in 2005, with the intention of developing the site into office space.
By 2008, work had still not begun and the building had become derelict and a magnet for vandalism and petty crime.
During the 2003 interview Butler said: "There are some things you are born with. Fast cars are in my blood. I have been driving my parents mad about them since I was two."
He added: "I would like to retire by the time I'm 35. I'm a big believer in goal-setting.
"I'll do something in property - or possibly selling high-class, expensive Ferraris to high net-worth individuals.
"But whatever I do, I would like to do it at my leisure."