September 18, 2019 / 4:37 PM / 2 months ago

British fugitive fraudster jailed after 15 years on the run

LONDON (Reuters) - A British fraudster has been sentenced to nine years in jail and ordered to pay 900,000 pounds ($1.12 million) after spending 15 years on the run, the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) said on Wednesday.

Christopher Woodhead, a 66-year-old former company director of chemical paint companies, used fictitious invoices, loans and cash transfers to extract nearly 450,000 pounds, which he spent on gambling debts, holidays, maintenance payments to his ex-wife, property and cars, the SFO said.

Woodhead, who was arrested in Spain in May and extradited to Britain, had attempted to avoid detection by “phoenixing” his companies - transferring assets from one company to a new one, making the old company insolvent and leaving it with only debts.

But customers notified the police and local newspapers, saying they had been charged thousands of pounds for little work.

Woodhead was charged with 13 theft offences in 2002, but absconded the day before his trial two years later. He was tried in absentia and sentenced to six years in jail and ordered to pay almost 430,000 pounds.

A judge on Wednesday handed him an additional three-year default sentence for the unpaid confiscation order which, including interest, now stands at 900,000 pounds.

“This man’s brazen decade-and-a-half on the run is finally at an end and I am pleased to see him behind bars and serving a sentence for his crimes,” said SFO director Lisa Osofsky.

“This case should send a clear message that we will always persist in our pursuit of justice.”

($1 = 0.8017 pounds)

Reporting by Kirstin Ridley; Editing by Alex Richardson

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