Five Sentenced to Jail Over U.K. Film Fraud Scheme

British authorities found that their film project "A Landscape of Lies" was a sham production designed to help them commit tax fraud.

LONDON -- A British court here on Monday sentenced five people - four men and a woman - to jail for their roles in a $4.1 million film-related tax-fraud attempt.

Evolved Pictures heads Bashar Al-Issa and Aoife Madden received terms of six-and-a-half years and four years and eight months, respectively. Fellow Evolved staffers Tariq Hassan and Osama Al Baghdady were each sentenced to four years, and Ian Sherwood to three-and-a-half years for their part in the attempted fraud.

Investigators of Britain's Revenue and Customs service had found that Evolved had never really planned to make the gangster movie A Landscape of Lies. The men simply used the sham production to try to claim $4.1 million (£2.8 million) in tax credits and value-added tax, they said.

According to investigators, they told their auditors that they had a $29 million (£19 million) budget from a Jordanian firm and that millions of pounds had been spent on it.

ITV News said that after they were initially arrested on suspicion of tax fraud in April 2011, the men tried to cover their tracks by actually shooting the film on a shoestring budget.

“This gang thought they could exploit rules for genuine British filmmakers and thieve from the public purse for their own gain," said John Pointing, assistant director of criminal investigation at the Revenue and Customs service. "They were wrong. Falsely claiming value-added tax that is not due is illegal, so we are pleased that instead of this film flop going straight to DVD, these small-screen z-listers could go straight to jail."

ITV said that A Landscape of Lies even won a Silver Ace award at last year's Las Vegas Film Festival.

Twitter: @georgszalai