Fraudster fled UK after asking flying instructor to drop him off in

An on-the-run fraudster was able to escape the country by taking a flying lesson and persuading the instructor to drop him off in France, a court heard. Fugitive Jamie Colwell had been convicted of a £1m VAT scam alongside his father, Brian, and both men faced lengthy prison sentences.But while on bail, Jamie Colwell, 51, came up with an elaborate plan to flee the country. He first hired a third party to drive his 74-year-old father to France via Dover in his new Porsche Cayenne.The driver then returned bringing back with him Brian Colwell’s passport for his son to use as his had been confiscated as part of his bail conditions.He then booked a flying lesson in south east Kent in his father’s name. When the light aircraft entered French airspace he convinced the instructor to land at an airfield in the Pas-de-Calais region and let him out, the court heard.He met up with his father and the pair fled to Malaga in Spain. A court heard the two men hired the same person to drive a rental van with their furniture to the Costa del Sol.Officials from the HMRC launched an investigation after the defendants failed to re-appear at Bournemouth Crown Court in January for sentencing. They were able to track the rental van’s journey to an address in southern Spain, where the father and son were arrested in May. Brian Colwell They were extradited back to the UK where Jamie Colwell was jailed for five years and three months and his father imprisoned for two years and eight months for fraud.The pair also admitted offences of breaching court bail conditions and were each given an extra six months on top of their original sentences.Judge Jonathan Fuller added: “You were at large for five months. You deliberately flouted bail conditions in the way that’s been described.” Colwell’s father, Brian, was first to flee the countryCredit:HMR&C/BNPS The Colwells were bogus property developers involved in a house building scam.They had raked in almost £1m in VAT repayments to which they were not entitled by lying about building £14m of new properties.The pair told the HMRC they had spent £14m building new properties. Such homes are zero-rated, which means developers can claim back VAT. In total, the Colwells claimed some £965,421 over six years through companies Belgravia Construction Services South Ltd and Robert Lloyd Property Ltd. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. read more