‘U-boat captain’ admits £1m fraud

Date:21st August 2011.'Captain Richard Williams, with his reclipa U-boat, U-8047, at Thwait Mills Museum, Leeds.
Date:21st August 2011.'Captain Richard Williams, with his reclipa U-boat, U-8047, at Thwait Mills Museum, Leeds.
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A self-styled U-boat captain who cheated the tax man out of more than £1m wasted a fortune on his “dissolute lifestyle”, a court was told.

Richard Williams maintained his lavish and eccentric way of life by also claiming state benefits, Manchester Crown Court was told.

Barrister Dominic Thomas told Recorder Michael Murray Williams had led a Champagne lifestyle for years.

He said: “The money has gone. It funded their dissolute lifestyle of Champagne, yachts, marinas and the U Boat.”

Dan Jones, for Williams’ co-
accused ex-partner Laurel Howarth, said: “She has got nothing left to show. She is working as a waitress in a cafe.”

Fifty-five-year-old ‘Captain’ Williams appeared at the helm of a replica Second World War German submarine while claiming unemployment and disability benefits, the court was told.

And while cheating the taxman, he drove a Mercedes car with the number plate VAT 100. Now Williams – also known as Stephen Howarth – faces jail after HMRC investigators ended his four-year scam.

He was due to be sentenced today for fraud and could face years behind bars.

Williams indulged his passion for boats by spending £50,000 converting a 
canal narrow boat into a 
U-boat, complete with torpedo tubes, a periscope and a panelled state room.

He also paid for a private jet to take his partner to Paris to buy rolls of bespoke wallpaper. At his North Shore home he converted his lounge into a replica of the US Presidential Oval Office.

But the sophisticated fraud which funded his champagne life and that of co-accused Howarth was 
eventually smashed by VAT staff who raided the ‘submarine’ in the early hours of the morning when it was moored outside the Royal Armouries at Leeds.

Six months earlier, Williams had been spotted moored in Liverpool dressed in full German submarine commander regalia.

HMRC’s investigation revealed Williams had illegally gained £1,017,000 with his partner’s assistance.

They had claimed back VAT on the nonexistent sales of beds for the disabled.

Williams admitted cheating the public revenue by claiming back VAT based on false VAT returns and fraudulent invoices for a company called Sleepability. In an 11-month period he illicitly received £345,549.

The second charge involved his firm Ortho-matic, which netted him £416,700 
using the same scam.

The third charge related to Discount Mobility Store, a firm he based in Workington, Cumbria and netted him £257,255.

Williams pleaded guilty to having articles to be used in connection with fraud – namely false invoices.

Initially, Howarth, 28, denied the offences but later changed her pleas, admitting three offences of recklessly sending Her Majesty’s Customs and Revenue false VAT returns in connection with Ortho-matic, Discount Mobility Store and a firm called Adjustabed.