A Worcestershire farmer who fled to Zimbabwe to avoid being prosecuted for a £1.4m VAT fraud has been jailed.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigators discovered that Paul Hussell had submitted 41 fraudulent VAT repayment claims for April 2008 to August 2011 in relation to his father’s tenanted farm.

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He used money from the fraud to buy himself a £38,000 Aston Martin DB9 (similar to the one pictured above) and a £70,000 six-berth Regal motor cruiser (pictured below) named “Carpe Diem of Poole” – purchases he kept secret from his wife.

Hussell boat

The fraud was discovered after a VAT officer identified irregularities on one of the monthly VAT returns and referred the case for criminal investigation.

Officers arrested Mr Hussell, 50, of Kemerton, near Tewkesbury, in November 2011, but he went on the run in February 2012 to avoid further questioning.

He returned to the UK from Zimbabwe in late 2012 and, after a period of ill-health, was rearrested and charged in November 2013.

HMRC’s arresting officers found him hiding in the bathroom of his rented farm cottage.

David Gold, defending, told the court that relentless financial pressures associated with tenant farming and running a family were to blame for his tax evasion.

Mr Hussell (pictured right) pleaded guilty to a number of HMRC VAT fraud offences at Worcester Crown Court.

Hussell fraud farmer

Sentencing him to three years and four months in jail, recorder GH Cliff, told Mr Hussell he had “deliberately and relentlessly over a period of time falsified documents in order to put HMRC off the scent while evading £1.4m in VAT”.

Speaking after sentencing, Colin Spinks, assistant director of HMRC’s criminal investigation unit, said: “Justice has finally caught up with Paul Hussell who fled the UK to avoid facing up to his crimes.

“In the end, after a lengthy investigation by our officers, he pleaded guilty to this sizeable VAT fraud and is now paying the price for his criminal activities.”

HMRC will seek to recover proceeds of his crimes.