A fraudster who reaped £1.6 million in VAT by pretending to be dead Hollywood producers has been jailed, after being arrested visiting family in Abbots Langley.

Sri-Lankan-born Damita Nikapota made a number of fraudulent VAT repayment claims from the UK taxpayer while living a "life of luxury" in the United States.

The 47-year-old was jailed for three years and eight months on Monday, June 23.

The conman made a number of fraudulent VAT repayment claims beginning in 2006 via his Los Angeles-based film company, AS Productions Limited, for film production costs totalling more than £11 million.

He claimed to be involved in, among other film projects, the production and filming of a movie called ‘The Flying Scotsman’ in Britain.

Nikapota claimed his production costs included employing famous Hollywood actors and work on adaptations of books by well-known authors.

In order to validate and progress his claims, Mr Nikapota impersonated other Hollywood producers, some of them dead, when he contacted HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

However, an HMRC investigation discovered that Nikapota had been removed from the ‘The Flying Scotsman’ film project and several of his companies linked to it were already in administration by 2005.

Mr Nikapota was arrested in Abbots Langley by HMRC in April 2014, when he came to the UK for a short visit from Canada.

He was charged the same day with three counts of fraud, cheating the Public Revenue and money laundering and pleaded guilty to the substantive offence of cheating on June 23 at Southwark Crown Court.

Along with being jailed Mr Nikapota was also disqualified from acting as a company director for eight years.

Joe Rawbone, assistant director, criminal investigation, HMRC, said: "As we delved deeper into these VAT claims, the stories Nikapota had told us began to unravel and the plot began to thicken. Every single claim and shred of paperwork submitted by this man was fictitious.

"Not only will he spend significant time behind bars, but he faces full confiscation proceedings to recover the money he stole from UK taxpayers.

"HMRC will continue to pursue fraudsters wherever they may be and make them face justice for perpetrating damaging attacks on the nation’s finances."

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