North West Wales

Conwy sisters tried to claim £161m in VAT, court hears

Roberta Vaughan-Owen
Image caption Roberta Vaughan Owen and her sister arrived separately at court

Two sisters have gone on trial accused of trying to claim back £161m in VAT which they had never paid.

Andrea and Roberta Vaughan-Owen, of Colwyn Bay, also allegedly claimed tens of thousands of pounds in benefits to which they were not entitled.

Both are alleged to have claimed incapacity benefits and working tax credits at the same time, but expressed interest in a £315,000 Rolls Royce.

At Caernarfon Crown Court the sisters deny nine charges. The trial continues.

Paul Taylor, prosecuting, told the jury that the sisters lived "beyond the dreams of honest working people".

They shared a £400,000 home in Colwyn Bay, rented out a second property, had private health care, paid for private education for Andrea's children and expressed an interest in items such as a £315,000 Rolls Royce, the jury was told.

Mr Taylor said it was a case "of our times and for our times".

"A case of, if you want it, you can have it, without doing any work to earn it".

He alleged the sisters got money from anyone they could, including banks, insurance companies and the state.

'Shocked to hear'

In his opening remarks he detailed how both sisters claimed incapacity benefits and working tax credits at the same time.

Andrea Vaughan-Owen also claimed child tax credits, the court heard.

The 42-year-old former Post Office worker and Roberta Vaughan-Owen, 37, who once worked as a civilian for North Wales Police, had managed to get "tens of thousands of pounds to which they were not entitled," said Mr Taylor.

The court was told that it began with tax credits fraud, and there were mortgage and insurance frauds and the attempted VAT fiddle.

Mr Taylor said working tax credit for people with lower incomes was "particularly easy to cheat" and civil servants "inept".

"They didn't make any inquiries, they didn't ask any questions," he added.

He told the jury: "You may be shocked to hear that all you had to do was pick up the phone and get through to the tax credit helpline and say 'the situation is still the same - I'm still working' and the money carried on".

Both sisters deny furnishing false information by submitting a claim for a VAT refund of £161m in 2008, registering companies for VAT purposes and attempting to obtain invoices to substantiate a claim for a VAT repayment, insurance fraud, and being involved in fraudulent activity to obtain tax credit payments.