Re: Honest brokers
The "wholesale" deals were for significant amounts of money, the goods never went to the company warehouse, never checked by any employee, no contracts were signed, and the goods were onsold within a very short period of time, and ownership was transferred without payment or contract.
That part to me seems believable. Or commonplace, ie commodities traders like oil could mean a tanker's contents change ownership many times whilst it's on it's way. But I assume if that's via an exchange, the deals are all logged and auditable. If deals get done off-exchange, I guess it's less certain.
I could see the same thing happening with PC components, especially CPUs, ie someone is a system builder, or wants to be one and needs a pile of CPUs. That may be more than you've got in inventory so you broker a deal, and the transaction happens fast. The deals did seem to get recorded, ie the massive reported revenues from the wholesale side. And I think it's reasonable that those deals get done based on a contacts list of people who may be able to source stuff, in various shades of grey.
Problem for me is if a sales guy came to me with those deals, I'd be rather dubious about the parties listed, and why they wanted stuff in such huge volumes when a lot of them didn't look like 'trade' customers.. Especially if I also knew we may get lumbered with a large VAT bill. Without that risk, or diligence, it'd look like a quick trade and easy money from the margin.
I guess HMRC's challenge is proving intent and that Aria should have known, or suspected these deals were shady. At the very least though, the exec team at Aria should have made sure they understood the risk given the deal sizes.