Two men from Manchester have been jailed for their part in a tax scam which attempted to claim £2.8m for a film they never intended to make.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigators found that the film, A Landscape of Lies, which it was claimed starred Hollywood A-list actors, was never intended for the big screen and was a sham production.
The real intent was to defraud the public purse of nearly £1.5m in VAT along with nearly £1.3 million in film tax credit claims.
Ian Sherwood and Osama Al Baghdady, both of Manchester, owned Evolved Pictures along with the gang's leader Bashar Al-Issa, Aoife Madden and Tariq Hassan.
They told their auditors that they had a budget of over £19m provided by a Jordanian company to produce a blockbuster film in the UK.
Evolved Pictures told HMRC that millions of pounds of work had been spent on the film, including paying actors and film set managers, claiming this meant a VAT repayment was due of £1,488,187.
However, during checks HMRC found that the work had not been done and most of the so-called suppliers and film studios had never heard of the gang.
When they were arrested, the gang came up with an elaborate plan to cover their tracks and hide the fraud by shooting a film on a shoestring called “A Landscape of Lies” featuring two television personalities.
– John Pointing, Assistant Director of Criminal Investigation at HMRC
“Falsely claiming VAT that is not due is illegal - so we are pleased that instead of this film flop going straight to DVD, these small-screen z-listers could go straight to jail.”
The gang attempted to cover their tracks by shooting a film on a shoestring called “A Landscape of Lies” featuring Loose Women's Andrea McLean and EastEnders' Marc Bannerman among its cast.
A Landscape of Lies even won an award, taking a 'Silver Ace' at last year's Las Vegas film festival.
Osama Al Baghdady, 51, an Iraqi national from Crumpsall received a four-year jail sentence.
Architect Ian Sherwood, 53, from Sale, who allowed his offices to be used for the fraud, was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail.
Bashar Al-Issa was jailed for six- and-a-half years, Aoife Madden was sentenced to four years and eight months and Tariq Hassan received a four-year jail sentence.