HMA v MICHAEL VOUDOURI

At Edinburgh High Court today, 27 June 2014, Lord Tyre sentenced Michael Voudouri to a total of 11-and-a-half years imprisonment after he pled guilty to laundering of the proceeds of a VAT fraud and breach of bail.

On sentencing, Lord Tyre made the following statement in court: 

“Michael Voudouri,

You have pled guilty to two charges relating to the laundering of the proceeds of a very large VAT carousel fraud perpetrated by the company Q-Tech Distribution Limited, in the course of 2000 and 2001. I address both charges together because they relate to consecutive periods distinguished only by a change in the legislative provisions applicable before and after 24 February 2003, a change which has no significance for present purposes. 

This was a complex money laundering operation. The sums of money which you, and others acting with you, transferred from Q-Tech’s bank account to accounts with banks in Cyprus, Greece, Switzerland and elsewhere were very large indeed, amounting in total to over £11,500,000 according to the narrative agreed with the Crown. You instructed the formation of companies in Delaware and in the British Virgin Islands to further conceal the true source and ownership of these funds. Eventually some of those funds found their way back to Scotland, to be used by you, among other things, for the purchase of a house in Bridge of Allan and to fund a designer clothes business in Stirling. Again you made use of third parties to conceal your personal financial interest in these assets. 

The maximum penalty for these offences, when convicted on indictment, is imprisonment for a period of 14 years, or a fine, or both. When Parliament enacted these provisions it clearly intended that in the most serious cases a punishment up to the statutory maximum could be imposed. In my view the offences which you committed fall towards the upper end of the scale of seriousness, both in relation to the very large sums involved and in relation to the complexity and sophistication of the laundering arrangements which you were responsible for directing, along with others. I take into account also the fact that you have a previous conviction for VAT fraud, which I regard as broadly analogous, and for which you were sentenced to imprisonment for four years in June 2004. I have also given careful consideration to what has been said on your behalf by Mr Ogg this morning. 

Your plea of guilty came at a very late stage of the proceedings. The first preliminary hearing in the case took place in September 2010. After lengthy preliminary procedure the case was set down for trial to commence on 2 October 2012 and to last for three months. Judicial and Crown resources were committed to the forthcoming trial. Very large quantities of documentary evidence were lodged in paper and in electronic format. Hundreds of witnesses were cited to give evidence. A large number of potential jurors were cited in order to secure the attendance of sufficient members of the public able to commit themselves to a very long trial. Your guilty plea was formally tendered on the morning when the trial was due to commence, after all of the above preparations been made. The trial proceeded against two of your co-accused. In these circumstances I am not satisfied that your plea had any material utilitarian value and I am not inclined to allow any discount. 

Taking all of these circumstances into account, I have decided to impose a cumulo sentence, in other words a sentence covering both of the charges in the money laundering indictment, of imprisonment for a period of ten years. The sentence is back-dated to 13 May 2014 when you were arrested on the European Arrest Warrant. 

I turn now to your plea of guilty to the charge under section 27(7) of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995: that is, your failure to appear on 30 November 2012 while on bail, due to the fact that shortly before or after that date you had left the country and taken up residence in the northern part of Cyprus where it is not possible to execute a European Arrest Warrant. This was clearly a pre-meditated decision to abscond to avoid punishment for the offences to which you had pled guilty. You were arrested in northern Cyprus in January on unconnected charges and thereafter decided to co-operate with the Scottish authorities in being brought back to Scotland under the European Arrest Warrant to face sentence. 

Your decision to abscond to northern Cyprus caused a great deal of trouble and expense in, first of all, attempting to trace your whereabouts and, subsequently, having you brought back to this jurisdiction. I regard this, too, as a serious offence. 

On this charge I sentence you to imprisonment for a period of 18 months, to be served consecutively to the sentence that I have imposed for the money laundering offences. 

Finally, I am satisfied that it is appropriate to make a Financial Reporting Order in this case. I shall make an order in terms of the draft proposed by the Crown.”