A MAN from Dilwyn who used his personalised champagne business to steal £63,500 in tax has been given a suspended prison sentence.

John Kenneth Hodgetts, 67, who ran the Personalised Champagne Company Limited, pleaded guilty to making false representation intending to make a gain for himself, at Birmingham Crown Court.

After being investigated by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) he was found to have submitted 40 fraudulent VAT repayment claims.

Investigators found that Hodgetts, who distributed bottles of champagne to UK customers from a supplier in France, registered for VAT in July 2005 shortly after setting up his company.

From December 2006 he started gradually increasing the value of his fraudulent VAT claims until he was regularly claiming about £2,000 a quarter.

Even when the company was dissolved in 2009, he continued to submit fraudulent repayment claims, opening up a new bank account just for the repayments.

Examination of Hodgett’s bank accounts showed that he supplemented his pension with around £6,000 a year from the fraud, which he spent on golf club membership, living expenses and paying off credit cards.

Richard Young, assistant director of the Fraud Investigation Service at HMRC, said: “Hodgetts abused the tax system and stole money that should have funded public services.

"He used his business solely to commit tax fraud to support a lifestyle he couldn’t afford. Tax fraud will not be tolerated and HMRC will continue to pursue those who attack the tax system.

“Hodgetts is now paying the price with a criminal record and we are working to recover the money he stole so that he in no way benefits from his criminal activity.

"If you believe someone is benefitting from tax fraud please call our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887."

Hodgetts was sentenced to 24 months imprisonment suspended for 18 months.

A confiscation hearing to recover the proceeds of his crime will follow.