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Fugitive who masterminded £46.6m wine fraud will return to London for confiscation hearing

A fraudster who fled the UK days before he was convicted of orchestrating a £46.6 million tax evasion scam will return for a confiscation hearing in May.

Livio Mazzarello, 62, was found guilty of money laundering and evading excise duty and VAT on an ‘industrial scale’ in July 2017.

He had been selling cases of wine under the counter for cash at The Italian Wine Company in Neasden, northwest London.

This fraud allowed the company to dodge VAT and duty on millions of bottles of wine, which were sold wholesale to UK retailers.

The total loss to HMRC, the UK’s tax authority, reached £46,579,257.32 between June 2008 and March 2013, according to court documents.

Mazzarello pocketed more than £38.7m from the scam, but the authorities eventually cottoned onto his skulduggery.

Officers raided his warehouse following an HMRC investigation, and they found £350,000 in cash stuffed above ceiling tiles and hidden in a secret safe, alongside 70,000 litres of wine with unpaid duty.

Mazzarello was arrested, but he skipped bail during his Old Bailey trial after emailing the judge to say he needed to visit his mother in Italy.

He was found guilty in his absence and jailed for 14 years in July 2017.

An Italian court assumed the enforcement of his sentence, and it reduced the fraudster’s term to just eight years.

He was released from prison in Genoa in June 2021 after serving under four years behind bars, and he is currently living at home under licence in Italy.

Mazzarello’s release conditions prohibit him from travelling without the permission of a judge.

He will now return to the UK for a two-day confiscation hearing, which is due to begin on 18th May.

Judge Philip Katz previously ruled that Mazzarello earned £38,725,148.30 from the scam, and the UK government will try to claw back some of the lost revenue at this hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

His partner, Louisa Mbadugha, who ran The Italian Wine Company alongside Mazzarello, was jailed for three-and-a-half years following the investigation.

At the time, HMRC investigative director Simon York said: ‘Mazzarello and Mbadugha thought they had developed the perfect scheme to divert millions of pounds from public finances. They were stealing from the taxpayer and undercutting legitimate traders.

‘The money they stole should have gone to fund vital public services, not straight into their pockets. They believed they could continue without fearing their criminal activities would be detected. They were wrong and we are working to reclaim any money they made from their crimes.’

It has taken almost six years, but the authorities will now finally have a chance to recoup some of the funds lost due to Mazzarello’s scam.

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