A COUPLE who funded their extravagant jet-set lifestyle by dodging almost £1M in payments to the taxman are facing jail.
Michael Howard, 44 and his wife Donna, 43, ran security systems business MDH Ltd and enjoyed a multi-million pound turnover.
They operated the firm from their luxury £400,000 home in Motherwell, Lanarkshire, and splurged thousands of pounds on a globetrotting, no-expense spared lifestyle.
But they are now facing jail after an investigation discovered the company had failed to pay almost £850,000 in tax over a three year period.
A trial at Hamilton Sheriff Court heard the Howards flew on luxury trips to the Cayman Islands, Mexico and stayed in the plush Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.
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The couple had two expensive Range Rovers and bought a top of the range Aston Martin which brazen Michael described as his ‘weekend car’.
Their home also boasted a sauna, gym, private bar, games room, a garden clubhouse, six bathrooms and 13 flat screen televisions.
Both of their sons, now aged 21 and 19, were sent to private schools.
However a probe was launched after one of their workers discovered HMRC had no record of him paying tax or national insurance.
The Howards were charged with failing to pay a massive £531,400.01 in VAT, £150,892.61 in income tax and £162,731.47 in National Insurance between February 2010 and December 2013.
A three week trial heard the couple – who have now divorced – deny the three charges and blame each other for the offences.
A jury has now found Donna Howard guilty of all charges and convicted her ex of failing to pay VAT. Charges he had failed to pay income tax and NI contributions were found not proven.
Michael Howard told the jury his wife was in charge of company accounts and claimed he had not seen any bank statements.
He said: “I didn’t know the VAT wasn’t being paid, I didn’t know the national insurance wasn’t being paid and I didn’t know the income tax being paid.
“This was not my part of the business and it was Donna who was in charge of the accounts and the tax and I thought it was being paid.
“When I took over the running of the full business, she told me everything was in order and everything had been paid.
“I’m disgusted, angry and ashamed that I let this happen.”
He added: “I didn’t look at a bank statement in four years because that was her role in the business while I took on the operational side and was out at sites.
“The business was doing okay and yes I do have a nice house but I believe I have earned every penny.”
Donna Howard’s mother Nessie Shields, 75, of Cambuslang, Lanarkshire, had faced claims she was involved in the scam but all charges against her were dropped during the trial.
She told the jury her daughter – who did not give evidence – was innocent and insisted Michael kept a constant eye on company finances.
She said: “Michael always queried the accounts of the business and I didn’t see any difference in how the accounts were being run during my time there.
“But I knew nothing about VAT, income tax or national insurance not being paid.
“Anytime anything was to be discussed between Michael and Donna they would go away to the other end of the house to the private bar.
“A lot of the time she would come back crying, I could hear Michael shouting at her when they were away so that is what she was upset about.
“Michael was in charge of what went onto invoices, wage slips and P45s because he was the owner so everything went through him, he would sign all the cheques.
“He very much took a detailed look at the accounts throughout the business and would query them regularly.
“He was very controlling about the funds and he knew what was going on exactly, he knew where the money was and what account it was in and any withdrawals that had been made.”
Sheriff Vincent Smith bailed both accused and deferred sentence for reports.
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