Bernard Knutsen (69) and wife Maureen (63) was sentenced to pay a whopping sum of £355,000 or spend time behind bars for dodging their tax obligations and committing benefit fraud.
What is Benefit Fraud?
Benefit fraud is when a person receives public funds to which they partially or totally do not deserve. Failure to disclose information about financial status, including employment, full income, or savings, intentionally creating false or misleading circumstances to make a benefit claim, or not being able to update the proper authorities about a change in a person ’s current situation related to a benefit can be tagged as a fraudulent behavior.
The Liverpool couple has been found guilty of committing tax evasion and benefit fraud, which they used to fuel their lavish lifestyle. For years, they did not bother to settle their VAT, national insurance, or income taxes while also deceitfully claiming benefits.
The Knutsens, who own a bar called Chaplin and a car repair garage in the city, have been flying in and out of the country for expensive vacations. This is what authorities discovered after seeing the photos of the extravagant trips in their home.
Based on an article published in the Liverpool Echo, the husband and wife have been on several trips abroad. In 2010, they flew to the United States and the United Arab Emirates. This was followed by an exotic holiday around different Asian countries, including Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, and India, in March and South Africa in November of 2011. They then set off for another trip to the USA and Argentina in 2013 and explored the Falklands and Antarctica in 2014. All in all, these big-ticket vacations cost approximately £21,000.
They also furnished their Fell Street residence with a brand new kitchen amounting to £24,000. During the search at the Knutsens’ home, investigators also saw the couple’s collection of pricey jewellery, including Rolex watches and Royal Mint gold sovereign coins, and exorbitant stacks of cash, estimated around £40,000, secretly hidden in handbags.
Losing Everything They Own
Apart from the seriously high amount of fines they have to deal with, the Knutsens was also sentenced for a total of seven years in jail for tax and benefit fraud following a joint investigation by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the Department for Work and Pensions and Liverpool City Council. They are also at the risk of losing everything they own. These include their residential and commercial properties, fine jewelry, and all of their life savings.
Daughter and Grandchildren Also Involved
Their own daughter, Kelly Knutsen (39), has been dragged into the case and was sentenced to 21 months suspended for two years for her participation in the tax and benefit fraud crimes of her parents. They transferred inexplicable funds into her bank account and was given a £4,000 Rolex watch. She also fraudulently claimed benefit to pay for her rent while secretly owning another property she is renting out to another person. Kelly has also been mandated to pay £5,010 within 28 days or suffer three months in jail.
Looking closer into the Knutsens’ financial accounts, authorities found out that they also had a £50,000 endowment policy and had funnelled £20,000 into the bank accounts of their grandchildren.
HMRC Swears to Chase After Benefit Frauds
“The Knutsens lived a jet-set lifestyle paid for by a criminal income from cheating every honest taxpayer,” Assistant Director Debbie Porter of the Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, told the Mirror UK.
“The Knutsens lost their liberty because of their greed and now face more time behind bars,” Porter continued. She assured that the HMRC will continue to run after criminals and appealed to citizens to share valuable information about anyone committing tax fraud or benefit fraud to contact HMRC online or through their Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.