Berkshire gang jailed for £120m alcohol fraud
A gang of nine men from Berkshire have been jailed for 46 years for VAT fraud and money laundering as part of an alcohol scam worth of £120 million.
The gang, which was led by Jayesh Shah, Riaz Khan, Fiaz Raja and Muhammad Rasool, stole £34 million in tax and laundered a total of £87 million in a string of offences which dated from January 2013 and 2015.
According to HMRC, the group falsified paperwork in order to cover up the illegal sale of smuggled alcohol. The money was laundered through over 50 banks accounts in countries including in Britain, Cyprus, Hong Kong and Dubai.
The gang carried out their fraud by creating companies supplying goods to others and charging VAT. The gang would pocket the VAT and the business would later be disbanded, becoming so-called “missing traders”.
The alcohol would be sold on again by similar companies set up by the gang, before being sold to a cash and carry. HMRC stated that each company in the chain would submit a VAT return showing that little or no tax was due to HMRC.
The gang operated from an office on Eton High Street, later moving to Windsor. They were eventually caught with the help of covert cameras installed in one of their offices, with a total of 20 warrants executed as part of the operation.
Officials carried out raids across London, Berkshire, Surrey, East Sussex and Buckinghamshire, seizing computers, £370,000 in cash and business records.
Richard Mayer, assistant director of the Fraud Investigation Service at HMRC, said: “This was a well-planned money laundering operation and tax fraud that stole millions of pounds of UK taxpayer money which should have been used to fund vital public services in the UK.
“The sums stolen by this organised crime group could have paid the equivalent of 1,400 salaries of newly-qualified teachers – enough to fully staff around 93 schools.
“Money laundering supports organised crime and is harmful to businesses, the public and society as a whole. Tackling this crime is a priority for HMRC and we will not hesitate to investigate those suspected of being involved.
“The honest majority of business owners pay what they owe and claim back the VAT they are entitled to claim. Concerted HMRC compliance activity has seen UK VAT losses from Missing Trader Intra-Community (MTIC) fraud decrease from three to four billion pounds in 2006 to around £250m a year today.”
Nasra Butt of the Crown Prosecution Service added: “Each of the convicted defendants played their part in a sophisticated operation designed to defraud HMRC. Between January 2013 and January 2015, they generated a loss of £34.2 million to HMRC and I am pleased that we have brought this organised crime operation to justice.
“Despite the evidence against them, some of the defendants refused to admit their part in this operation, but we were able to prove otherwise. They will now spend more than 46 years in prison.”
Six members of the gang were jailed earlier this year after a three month trial. Another member pleaded guilty in May and the two remaining were convicted after a second trial ending 26 July.