U.S. film fest cancels award for U.K. film after tax scam

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U.S. film fest cancels award for U.K. film after tax scam

LONDON - A U.S. film festival has withdrawn an award given to a British movie about a Gulf War veteran seeking justice after a London court jailed five people for making the movie as part of a 2.8 million pound ($4.3 million) tax scam. Tax inspectors were told that A-listers from Hollywood would be starring in a 19.6 million pound production that would be shot in Britain. But the gang never intended to make the film “Landscape Of Lives,” Southwark Crown Court in London heard on Monday.

“The real intent was to defraud the public purse of nearly 1.5 million pounds in VAT along with nearly 1.3 million in film tax credit claims,” the HMRC revenue department said.

When tax inspectors started becoming suspicious, the gang tried to cover their tracks by actually making a low-budget film about a Gulf War veteran seeking justice for a murdered comrade. Just as in this year’s Oscar Best Picture winner “Argo” - in which the CIA dreams up a fake sci-fi movie, complete with screenplay, posters and advertisements as cover for a hostage-rescue mission - the low-budget production was announced in film industry magazines.

It then even went on to win a Silver Ace award at last year’s Las Vegas film festival. A spokeswoman from the festival said the award was “simply a participation award.” “The acknowledgment has since been rescinded,” she said on Tuesday.

HMRC said in a statement that gang leader Bashar Al-Issa, 35, along with former Irish actress Aoife Madden, Tariq Hassan, Ian Sherwood and Osama Al Baghdady owned Evolved Pictures. They told their auditors that they had a budget of more than 19 million pounds, provided by a Jordanian company, to produce a blockbuster film in Britain. “However, during checks, HMRC found that the work had not been done and most of the so-called suppliers and film studios had never heard of the gang,” the HMRC said. Reuters
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