A farmer who stole more than half a million pounds by falsely claiming VAT on machinery and fertiliser has been told she will only have to repay £20,000.

Ella Thom of Torphins, Aberdeenshire, was jailed for 27 months in December for committing tax fraud worth £657,932.

Cattle farmer Ms Thom stole the money from HM Revenue and Customs over six years by inflating the cost of machinery, fertiliser and business charges on her VAT returns.

The Crown Office originally ordered Ms Thom to repay £150,000, but was told she had few assets of any value left.

Aberdeenshire Council had already been given permission to sell 49 of her cattle in an effort to claw back costs.

The council had also asked to kill the remaining 100 animals after it had run up a bill of £100,000 to feed and care for the herd, which it had been told had no commercial value, while Ms Thom was in prison.

Ms Thom had originally offered to pay back £4,000 in the hope she would be let out of jail early, but prosecutors said it was not enough.

Following a number of hearings over the past month, they eventually accepted she could only pay back £20,000.

During the court case in December last year, Aberdeen Sheriff Court was told Ms Thom had carried out the fraud by declaring that “the input tax she paid was greater than the output tax”.

Her solicitor had urged the sheriff not to send Ms Thom to prison, as she said Ms Thom had been pressured into committing the crimes by a man.

She said Ms Thom had been repeatedly asked to make excessive claims and write cheques for significant sums out to the man, who was not named in court.

Lindsey Miller, procurator fiscal for organised crime and counter terrorism, said the £20,000 confiscated from Ms Thom represented everything she had.

If more assets were uncovered in future, the Crown Office would demand further payment, she said.

“Those who commit VAT fraud face not only a criminal conviction, but also the prospect of paying a significant sum of money under the Proceeds of Crime Act,” she added.

The Crown’s team of expert financial analysts and prosecutors would continue to work with law enforcement teams to ensure as much money was recovered and reinvested into Scottish communities as possible.

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