A luxury watch dealer, who dodged £1.25 million in tax by falsifying import paperwork to show Rolexes, Cartiers and Breitlings were worth as little as £39, has been jailed for three years.
Darren Reay, 46, of Grimoldby, Lincolnshire, admitted misdescribing the watches as low-value ‘precision instruments’ – enabling him to pay import VAT of just £7,805 during a four-year fraud uncovered by HM Revenue and Customs HMRC.
Reay, who traded online via eBay as ‘Darren Reay Watches’ and also from ‘Wight’s Watches’ in Cowes, Isle of Wight, used the money to fund a lavish lifestyle of luxury properties, cars and designer watches. More than 800 watches (including the one pictured above) were seized when authorities uncovered his crimes.
Colin Spinks, assistant director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “Reay blatantly lied to steal £1.25m from the UK public. His crimes were driven by pure greed to fund a luxury lifestyle he couldn’t afford. We will ensure honest, hardworking businesses do not suffer from being undercut by fraudsters like Reay.”
The investigation began after business records, including diaries, invoices, and shipping and courier documents, were examined as part of an HMRC compliance visit to Wight’s Watches in March 2014.
Documents showed insurance of £19,000 was taken out on shipments with declared import values of between £39 and £78.
HMRC investigations revealed that over 520 packages had been imported from one retailer in New Jersey, United States, with £6.3 million being paid out by money transfer in the same period.
Reay (above) told investigators these watches were imported to order and he would receive commission. The offences took place between March 2011 and March 2015.
Reay left the Isle of Wight in June 2014, but continued trading online through a business registered in Barnet, Greater London, while living in Houghton-le-Spring, County Durham.
Over 800 watches were seized during a search of Reay’s then-home in Chilton Moor, Houghton-le-Spring, last year. The judge ordered that the watches be sold and the proceeds paid to HMRC.
Reay also had business links to Gibraltar where he is known to have traded online as ‘watches.es’ through his business ‘KJO Ltd’. He also traded online from the UK as ‘Watch Dealer Ltd’ between March 2011 and August 2013.