If you commit a serious crime, such as tax fraud, you know that you have to watch your back and that you may end up permanently on the run. If you decide to flee the country, you may get to spend your time in the sunshine, enjoying the fruits of your crime, but you have to ask yourself is it really worth it? There is a lot to be said for getting out of the country and enjoying a relaxed lifestyle and better weather but if you are on the run from the authorities, it will really impact on your ability to come back.
Some people accept that they can never return home, and this is a major downside of carrying out a major crime. It may mean that you miss your family members, friends, favourite pubs and restaurants and even your favourite football team. If you undertake crime and have to flee the country in order to enjoy the benefits of the crime, you need to think about what you are giving up. Money is important but it is certainly not everything in life, and you may find that the lure of home calls stronger when you know that you can’t really return.
A Sticky Time at the Home of the Toffees
This means that many criminals try and sneak back and catch up with their favourite things. One tax cheat who had fled the UK to enjoy a life in Spain found that returning home to catch up with some home comforts was his undoing. Damian O’Hagan from Liverpool returned home to see Everton Football Club play at Goodison Park but he was arrested upon trying to enter the stadium.
An investigation carried out by HMRC found that O’Hagan had retained over £90,000 of VAT payments which he had received from a client. O’Hagan then tried to cover this crime by becoming registered in VAT. In January of 2015, owing £91,761 in VAT, O’Hagan moved to Benidorm. He was running a bar in Benidorm but the lure of his favourite team was too much and in August of 2015, he made the trip back to Liverpool to see his team play against Manchester City at home. The Toffees would lose the game but on trying to gain entry to the stadium, O’Hagan was apprehended and he has since faced trial. The outcome of the case in Liverpool Crown Court, where O’Hagan admitted VAT fraud saw him being jailed for a period of 18 months. This means that O’Hagan will be absent from Goodison for another lengthy period of time.
A Jail sentence awaits for Football Fan
There is also the fact that O’Hagan is likely to be pursued for the money either from HMRC or through POCA. Even if he serves a period in jail that is shorter than the 18 months, it is not as if he is going to have all of the money that he took to enjoy himself. It may be that O’Hagan will be able to return to Benidorm, run a bar and be able to commute back and forth to watch football when it pleases him but in the present day, many criminals find that the incentives of crime are stripped from them.
Before POCA was introduced, many criminals would accept jail as an occupational hazard and if they knew that they would have their money on exiting prison, they would be able to see out their term with a minimum of fuss and effort. This is no longer the case and there is a serious likelihood of criminals going to prison and having nothing to show for the crime that saw them put behind the bars.
This is clearly one of the strongest elements of POCA because it will hopefully make many criminals think twice about whether committing a crime is of benefit to them. Knowing that there is a greater chance that they will not have their money at the end of any jail sentence could see some criminals decide that it is no longer worth their while, and if this is the case, POCA will be deemed to be of great value and benefit.
With more and more POCA hearings likely to take place, it is important that defence solicitors avail themselves with this aspect of the law. Clients will be looking for specialist guidance and support that provide them with the strongest representation, not just with respect to charges, but with respect to any money that they may have earned through their actions.
Andrew Reilly is a freelance writer with a focus on news stories and consumer interest articles. He has been writing professionally for 9 years but has been writing for as long as he can care to remember. When Andrew isn’t sat behind a laptop or researching a story, he will be found watching a gig or a game of football.