London - A British fraudster has been sentenced to nine years in jail and ordered to pay 900 000 pounds (R16.6 million) after spending 15 years on the run, the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) said on Wednesday.
Christopher Woodhead, a 66-year-old former company director of chemical paint companies, used fictitious invoices, loans and cash transfers to extract nearly 450 000 pounds (R13.3 million), which he spent on gambling debts, holidays, maintenance payments to his ex-wife, property and cars, the SFO said.
Woodhead, who was arrested in Spain in May and extradited to Britain, had attempted to avoid detection by "phoenixing" his companies - transferring assets from one company to a new one, making the old company insolvent and leaving it with only debts.
But customers notified the police and local newspapers, saying they had been charged thousands of pounds for little work.
Woodhead was charged with 13 theft offences in 2002, but absconded the day before his trial two years later. He was tried in absentia and sentenced to six years in jail and ordered to pay almost 430 000 pounds (almost R8 million).