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Boss jailed for his part in fuel money-laundering tax scam.

A CROOKED businessman was yesterday jailed at Cardiff Crown Court for laundering pounds 84,000 as part of a tax fraud.

Company boss Geoffrey Aus- ton, 49, admitted allowing his firm to be used as a front for selling kerosene fuel without paying excise duty.

Prosecutor Jonathan Austin said customers paid Auston's firm Anglo Fuels Ltd for the fuel believing it was a legitimate business.

But Auston then withdrew the cash and handed it to his shady business partners.

Mr Austin said, 'He was withdrawing cash then immediately passing it on to those who had sold the fuel.

'Auston told Customs officers he would take the money from the accounts and deliver it to a man at a service station.'

Cardiff Crown Court heard Auston thought there was a legitimate reason for the business at first - but then became scared of his partners.

Mr Austin said, 'He acknowledged there was an element of fear in crossing the others in the enterprise.'

Auston, of Bishop Middleton, County Durham, admitted assisting another to obtain the benefit of criminal conduct.

His activities were discovered after an extensive investigation by Customs and Excise officers in Cardiff.

Jennet Treharne, defending, said Auston had been 'naive' when he got involved in the scam, believing the tax-dodgers had a genuine interest in his firm.

She said, 'Through this naivety he was misled, then when he realised the enormity of what was occurring he was clearly frightened.

'He accepts he closed his mind to it because he was fearful of the consequences.'

Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC jailed Auston for 15 months and told him he must have known about the scam.

'You must have been alerted within a short time that you were involved in an extremely bizarre and unusual set of circumstances, the judge told Auston.

'It is a matter of grave concern that criminal gangs seem able to enjoy the proceeds of their crimes by laundering.'
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Nov 29, 2003
Words:321
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