Three people have been arrested on suspicion of an estimated £2.4million VAT fraud alleged to be connected to Great Leighs racecourse, near Braintree.

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Officers from HM Revenue and Customs carried out co-ordinated raids at residential addresses near Braintree, and High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire today.

The swoops took place early this morning.

It is understood one of the warrants was at a premises within Great Leighs racecourse.

A man, aged 63, and a 50-year-old woman were arrested at the address.

They were questioned by officers in relation to the alleged fraud.

Meanwhile, a second man, aged 64, was detained at his home in High Wycombe.

Two business premises were also searched.

Those arrested were questioned in relation to suspicion of fraud by false representation, cheating the public revenue, and money laundering.

They were today bailed to return to police on March 5/6, 2014.

The alleged fraud is said to be connected to the horse racing industry, although customs officers have not revealed any more details about the investigation.

Forensic accountants are understood to be part of the inquiry.

Computers and other IT equipment are said to have been seized as part of the investigation.

The operation was carried out by officers based at HM Revenue and Customs in Ipswich.

Paul Barton, Assistant Director, Criminal Investigation, HMRC said: “Tackling tax fraud is a key priority for HMRC and we will not hesitate to investigate those suspected of stealing public funds.

“Anyone with information about people who may be involved in tax fraud can contact the Tax Evasion Hotline on 0800 788 887.”

Robin Mounsey, a spokesman for the British Horseracing Authority, said: ““We have been informed of the arrests today. We understand that none of the individuals involved are licensed persons.

“This is a matter for HM Revenue and Customs.”

Great Leighs all-weather racecourse opened to the public in May 2008, but last saw action on Jan 15, 2009.

In June this year its had its application to join the 2014 fixture-list allocation rejected by the British Horseracing Authority.

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