UK Poker Champ Ordered to Turn Prize Over to Taxman to Atone for Past Crimes

Posted on: August 16, 2018, 09:30h. 

Last updated on: August 16, 2018, 08:07h.

In March, British poker player Adam Lulat won the Grosvenor United Kingdom Poker Tour (GUKPT) main event for £70,000. This week, he was ordered to surrender all his winnings to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) or face prison time.

Adam Lulat
Adam Lulat poses with his victorious pocket nines after beating the field at the GUKPT Manchester main event. But it was ultimately the taxman who held the winning hand. (Image: GUKPT)

In 2015, Lulat was sentenced to 28 months for his role in a £40 million ($51 million) pan-European money-laundering and tax fraud operation, and authorities are clawing the money back.

The 26-year-old was still a student when he was detained by authorities at London’s Heathrow Airport on a return to a trip to Poland three years ago. He was convicted of being part of a gang of six that worked for other criminal organizations, moving millions in dirty cash through a network of bank accounts in the UK and Europe.

The gang had also created phony businesses to make bogus VAT repayment claims against a several EU member states. Investigators said they tracked the complex web of transactions across Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic.

Hard-Up Student Pays £1

Lulat was linked to the network through phone and computer records that showed he ran two businesses and owned four bank accounts that were used to launder money for the gang.

All six received prison sentences and were ordered to sell all their assets to repay collectively almost £590,000. But despite the amount of cash involved in the crime, Lulat had little money and no traceable assets to sell. Until now.

In 2015, due to his apparently straitened circumstances, he repaid a nominal sum of £1, but was warned HMRC could recover up to £237,449 ($300,000) from him in the future — and it seems someone at the tax office has been reading the poker press.

Taxman Wins the Lot

Lulat was summoned to Manchester Crown Court this week where he was ordered to pay the full sum of his winnings as well as £2,840 ($3,614) held in a personal bank account or face another 15 months in prison.

“Lulat thought he’d aced the tournament but we had the better hand in the end,” quipped Debbie Porter, Assistant Director, of the HMRC’S Fraud Investigation Service.

“We will not allow tax fraudsters like Lulat to enjoy their winnings until they’ve repaid what they’ve stolen from the taxpayer. HMRC will relentlessly pursue criminals for their ill-gotten gains,” she added. “We will not go away — we will continue to peruse convicted tax fraudsters to ensure they pay what they owe.”