HRMC has issued an order to seize £26.5m worth of cash allegedly obtained fraudulently through the furlough scheme from ‘non-existent’ businesses run by an ‘entrepreneur’.
On Monday, Cardiff Magistrates Court District Judge Shoman Khan granted HMRC a forfeiture order over five Nationwide building society accounts. Judge Khan described the amounts involved in the case as ‘eye-watering’ and of ‘grave concern to the public’.
Under the Criminal Finances Act 2017, a Forfeiture order is granted when a district court is satisfied that the funds in an account represent the proceeds of crime or are intended for illegal use.
The accounts were all owned and controlled by Ranjanish Garibe, 44, who used the four different companies to access furlough funds.
HMRC told the court that Garibe had allegedly invented seven employees, when the furlough scheme was introduced, and then used different national insurance numbers which were either ‘fake or stolen’ to claim the money.
The four companies claimed to be an IT services company, a charity, a research hospital, and a religious institute according to the company’s registration documents.
All four of the companies were set up under Technotic Corporation Ltd and were called Domain Corporation Ltd incorporated in June 2020, Domain Research Hospital in September 2020, Domain International School in January 2020, and Domain Foundation Ltd in April 2019.
The companies were all registered at a virtual office address inside Kemp House at Moorfield Eye Hospital, Old Street in East London, according to Companies House.
In unaudited UK accounts, Domain Corp Ltd and Domain Foundation, the IT business and charity, filed its 2020 accounts as ‘micro-identities’ which is a status given to very small companies who have a turnover of under £632,000, 10 employees or fewer, or assets of less than £316,000.
The accounts do not state revenues but claim that the company has £7.8m of assets and 50 employees.
The companies each received between £5m and 10m in furlough cash in May, according to government data. In each of the prior six months, the companies had either made no claims or claims no greater than £250,000. None of the companies made claims in June.
The court heard that Garibe was removed from his post as the director of the companies, according to Companies House, and was replaced by a 31-year-old American named Maria James, whose registered address was a virtual office at St Martins’ Lane in Covent Garden, London.
HMRC stated that it believes that this person is still Garibe.
In response to questions about the Domain Companies’ furlough claims HMRC said: ‘We cannot comment on identifiable claimants or ongoing investigations’.