Issa guilty of fake gangster film tax scam

Bankrupt Iraqi developer Bashar Issa masterminded a gang found guilty in Southwark Crown Court of tax fraud involving a fake £20m gangster film.

Bashar Al IssaIssa, pictured, whose property and construction businesses collapsed in 2008 and 2009 leaving several Manchester city centre sites in administration, devised the tax fraud scheme, the court heard.

According to the Daily Mail the gang tricked Loose Women TV host Andrea McLean into starring in the film, a thriller called A Landscape of Lies, which was a cover up for the scam aimed at claiming tax credits and VAT repayments.

When HM Revenue & Customs investigated the film Bassar Al-Issa, 33, film producer Aoife Madden, 31, Tariq Hassan, 51, Ian Sherwood, 53, and Osama Al-Baghdady, 50, arranged for a script to be written and hired a cast to persuade investigators the project was authentic.

McLean, who believed the movie was real, took the role of a bisexual therapist called Dr Audrey Grey.

Former Eastenders star Marc Bannerman, who played soap character Gianni di Marco, was also recruited to take part in a promotional video which is now on You Tube, believing the project was real.

Southwark Crown Court was told that HMRC investigators initially believed the film story and only became suspicious after tax credits of £1m had been claimed following payments between a series of companies controlled by the criminal gang.

Issa was found guilty of two counts of conspiracy to cheat the public revenue.

Hassan, Al-Baghdady and Sherwood were each found guilty of a single count of conspiracy to cheat the public revenue. They were each cleared of a second conspiracy charge.

Earlier, Madden, born in Newry, Northern Ireland, admitted two conspiracy charges.

Issa devised the scheme while studying at the University of East London, the court heard. The fake companies were set up with university lecturer, Hassan, architect Sherwood and Jordanian businessman Al-Baghdady.

Payments were made between their companies to use as the basis for fraudulent tax credit claims between April 2010 and April 2011.

Issa's Manchester developments included Sarah Tower, now occupied by a Premier Inn; Issa Quay, an apart-hotel block nearby in Dale Street; Sarah Point, Great Ancoats Street acquired by UK Land & Property and Canopus in Salford, still a derelict site. The schemes called Sarah were named after Al-Issa's wife.

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Ah, in a bizarre twist, isn’t the film now up for an award??

By B Norman