Three men, including one from Falmouth, were sentenced at Truro Crown Court for their involvement in a fraudulent taxi firm that had a turnover of around £1.2 million and evaded paying almost £300,000 of VAT during a four year period.
Martin Perks, 68, of Well Way, Porth, near Newquay, was sentenced to three years in prison, with Christopher Perks, 41, of Horizon Fields in Sennen and Peter Hull, aged 60 and living at Golden Bank Park, in Falmouth, were both sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for two years.
All three had admitted charges of running the bogus Chy-Meor Flight Connections taxi firm, specialising in long distance journeys to and from major UK Transit hubs, which ran out of Porth, Newquay and Grampound Road Industrial Estate between January 1, 2009 and May 30, 2013 and of claiming to be a fully licensed and insured private hire operation.
In reality Cornwall Council’s Trading Standards officers found that the firm used unlicensed drivers, used unlicensed vehicles, falsified driver documentation and made false declarations to local vehicle hire businesses.
The Trading Standards investigation took over 18 months and also discovered that the firm had made false declarations to HM Revenue and Customs to avoid paying VAT.
In May 2014 Martin Perks absconded to France. He was arrested by French police near Toulouse in July 2015 and extradited to the UK after a European Arrest Warrant was served for Cornwall Council Trading Standards and HM Revenue and Customs’ offences.
Elizabeth Kirk, Cornwall Council senior Trading Standards officer said: “For us, this case centred around public safety. Our licensing laws exist to protect passengers from unfit drivers and unsafe vehicles. The activities of this business also caused insurances, where they existed, to be invalidated. We are really pleased with the outcome of this case, which was a real team effort and a great example of joined up working across the council.”
Cornwall Council cabinet member for communities Geoff Brown added: “I commend the outstanding work of officers from Cornwall Trading Standards who brought this lengthy case to a conclusion. Cornwall Council remains determined to ensure public safety and operating an unlicensed and unregistered business could have serious implications for both the well-being and security of customers.”