EIGHT members of an international organised crime gang responsible for money laundering £1.28 million stolen from Government offices in York and an attempted £250,000 VAT fraud are today awaiting sentence.

Leeds Crown Court heard how the gang set up bogus companies to make false VAT claims and when the taxman spotted their fraud before it could succeed, they targeted DEFRA instead.

In March and April they altered the department’s database to divert £1.28 m into an account of one of the bogus companies and then used it to buy gold and expensive cars as well as sending some to a Portuguese company.

Five members of the gang will be sentenced for their part in the crimes next month. The other three will be sentenced at a later date.

Thomas Joseph Corridan was found guilty of money laundering by a jury and others pleaded guilty to the charges they faced.

The eight are: Michael William Bostock, 39, of Stafford, Robert Cann, 70, of Altrincham, Paul Tinsley, 37, of Stoke on Trent, Paul Edwards, 30, of Newcastle-Under-Lyme, Michael Ian Davies, 48, of Stone, Corridan, 51, of Loule, Portugal, Thomas Cottam of Deganwy, Conwy, and Lester John Stacey, 49, of Stoke-on-Trent.

A ninth man, Paul Summers, 41, of Marple, Stockport, was acquitted of the VAT charge and was not charged in connection with the DEFRA offences.