Yorkshire beer smugglers jailed for £3.8m tax fraud

A criminal gang from South Yorkshire has been sentenced to a total of 19 years in prison for evading £3.8 million in duty and VAT by smuggling beer – including brands Budweiser, Carlsberg and Stella Artois – into the UK.

(Photo: HMRC)

Four men, hailing from Doncaster and Rotherham, were found guilty of smuggling beer from France, Belgium and Germany into the UK at Leeds Crown Court on 22 September.

Known as diversion fraud, the gang used duplicated paperwork to bring truckloads of duty-suspended beer into the UK. Destined for UK-bonded warehouses, the trucks were subsequently illegally diverted to the gang’s premises and sold without duty having been paid.

The gang were busted by HM Revenue and Customs after the department began its investigation in 2013. HMRC discovered that the gang had been selling the beer on a “no VAT, no invoice” basis to off-licences and other retailers in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.

Ringleader Huseyin Zerze, 31, from Doncaster, who had used a sandwich shop to conceal his criminal activities, was jailed for seven years for conspiring to cheat the public revenue. Ozgur Kaplan, 27, from Rotherham was sentenced to 2 years in prison, Ibrahim Mayil, 38, from Doncaster was jailed for five years and his brother, Huseyin Mayil, 36, from Doncaster was sentenced to five years in prison.

According to HMRC, the gang bought the beer via a bonded warehouse in Germany where alcohol can be stored without paying duty.

The import paperwork shows that the beer was then shipped to the UK, intended for UK bonded warehouses in Haydock, Doncaster and London but was never delivered. Instead, it was diverted to the gang’s headquarters and then sold.

The men operated under the company name Expo Cash & Carry Ltd and had premises in Doncaster, Liverpool and Roydon. This business closed in June 2013 after HMRC began looking into it.

Zerze and Kaplan continued to operate using the details and accounts of a sandwich shop in York called The Pita (UK) Ltd. Zerze also employed his uncles, Ibrahim and Huseyin Mayil, to set up Rotherham Cash & Carry Ltd in Hellaby to both act as the delivery destination for the goods and to sell them to local retailers.

HMRC initially seized more than 425,000 litres of beer, worth £575,706 in unpaid duty, as well as £68,000 in cash.

Following Kaplan’s arrest in November 2013, £43,000 in cash was seized together with receipts for the purchase of more than £215,000 in alcohol from his vehicle. A further £5,000 was taken from his former address in Wood Green in London. Zerze was arrested in Enfield in May 2014.

Officers seized 20,000 from Huseyin Mayil while his brother, Ibrahim, was arrested in January 2015.

HMRC has estimated that the fraud, which took place between January 2012 and September 2014, is estimated to be worth £3.8 million in unpaid duty and VAT. The department has said that “proceedings are underway to recover any profit made from these crimes”.

Assistant director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, Stuart Taylor, said: “This was a sophisticated and shameful attack on the UK’s alcohol trade that undoubtedly harmed legitimate and hardworking businesses. Zerze and his criminal gang stole millions of pounds which should have been used to fund our public services and now they are paying the price behind bars.

“HMRC will continue to pursue organised crime gangs which think stealing from the public is a legitimate way to do business. We urge anyone with information about alcohol smuggling to contact us on 0800 788 887″.

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