By Claire West

HMRC investigators worked in close cooperation with their Italian counterparts the Polizia di Stato, Polizia Postale e delle comunicazioni (State Police responsible for investigating cybercrime) to identify and arrest a man at Stansted airport on Saturday 24 August 2013, as the suspect disembarked a flight from Italy. He was subsequently charged with Cheating the Revenue and has been remanded in custody.

A further four men were arrested in London, at Stansted airport and in Chatham, together with simultaneous searches in London, Chatham, and Italy. They have been released on bail, pending further enquiries.

The group is suspected of illegally obtaining personal data from third parties in order to set up a number of false Self Assessment accounts with HMRC, beginning over the Jubilee bank holiday weekend in 2012, with the intention of attempting to steal large sums of false tax rebates.

Andrew Sackey, Assistant Director, Criminal Investigation for HMRC, said:

HMRC’s online systems proved extremely resilient to these attacks - they correctly identified and prevented the vast majority of false repayment attempts from the outset.

These arrests clearly demonstrate that we can, and will, apprehend those suspected of attempting to cheat UK taxpayers by defrauding HMRC, with international assistance if necessary.

HMRC are unable to provide any further information ahead of court proceedings.