Customs raid on Leeds U-Boat EXCLUSIVE

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The captain of a German U-Boat moored in Leeds has been arrested by customs officers as part of a fraud probe.

A raiding party boarded the craft – in reality a converted barge – while it was tethered to a jetty behind the Royal Armouries.

They arrested its self-styled captain, Richard Williams.

In a fraud investigation, HMRC officers swooped on the replica U-Boat “U-8047” – the converted narrowboat is run as a museum – early yesterday morning. (January 26)

Soon after, Williams was taken by HMRC officers and led from the craft for questioning in connection with a suspected fraud probe.

The boarding party then began a detailed search of the realistic copy of a German wartime submarine.

Customs officers were seen peering into the interior and examing the fittings and artefacts of the floating museum which has become well known to visitors to Clarence Dock since its launch as an attraction amid a blaze of publicity last year.

At that time it was reported that a boat building firm in Liverpool was commissioned to construct the £60,000 U-Boat replica complete with conning tower and gun to celebrate Mr Williams’ birthday. Mr Williams family and friends assisted by a feature film dresser then “fitted out” the craft with authentic items obtained via the internet.

Inside the vessel the Captain’s Cab is oak panelled and contains a desk and chart table.

The U-8047 Trust, a social enterprise, was reportedly formed for the upkeep of the craft and for the historical education of children.

A spokesman for HM Revenue and Customs said that its investigators assisted by UK Border Agency officers and local police carried out early morning searches of a canal boat and arrested a 64-year-old man as part of an investigation, codenamed Operation Cloudcastle, into the alleged VAT fraud and subsequent laundering of the criminal proceeds.

Mike O’Grady, HMRC Assistant Director of Criminal Investigation, said: “This is an investigation targeting a suspected VAT repayment fraud over several years and the laundering of criminal profits by businesses based in Blackpool, Lancaster, Penrith and Workington.

Further details cannot be provided at this stage, as our investigation is continuing.”