A man has been jailed after pleading guilty at the High Court in Edinburgh to a £600,000 fraud involving an international car import business.
The judge was told that John Gilmour, 52, brought four-wheel drive cars from Cyprus to the UK, where he sold them without paying the VAT which was due.
He was given a sentence of two years and three months for cheating Customs.
The court was told the pressure of the case had driven the Wishaw businessman “near to death”.
The profitability of Gilmour’s businesses depended to a significant extent on his fraudulent actions, which he embarked upon in an attempt to dig his business out of financial trouble.
The businessman – who reduced prices on the luxury vehicles by up to £9,000 – could have been sent to prison for a maximum of seven years.
He still faced further court action to strip him of his assets.
Lord Brodie said the sentence would have been longer, but for a “very powerful” plea for leniency by the car dealer’s lawyer Maurice Smyth.
Mr Smyth said: “He faces the prospect of losing everything, including his house.
“This last few years have been bleak and punishing and have driven him near to death.”
After the case Gordon Miller, HM Revenue & Customs head of investigation Scotland, welcomed the sentence.
“Mr Gilmour carried out a sustained and deliberate attack on the VAT and vehicle licensing systems in the UK over a three-year period,” he said.
“We are determined to prosecute those who seek to undermine honest traders and cheat the public.”
Mr Miller added: “Gilmour used the VAT evaded to fund his own lavish lifestyle and undercut the legitimate motor trade.
“In doing so he duped hundreds of customers who bought illegally imported cars from him, believing that he was passing on the VAT he charged them.”