Berkshire

VAT fraud gang members jailed for £34m theft

Seized cash Image copyright HMRC
Image caption HMRC investigators seized £370,000 in cash from the gang

Eight members of a gang which stole £34m in tax money and laundered £87m after selling illicit alcohol have been jailed.

The gang headed by Jayesh Shah, Riaz Khan, Fiaz Raja and Muhammad Rasool ran a "missing trader" VAT fraud.

They laundered their proceeds through more than 50 bank accounts in Britain, Cyprus, Hong Kong, and Dubai.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said the sums stolen were equivalent to "1,400 newly-qualified teachers' salaries".

A ninth member of the Berkshire-based group was given a suspended sentence.

An investigation by HMRC found the gang operated from an office in Eton High Street, and then moved to Windsor during the two-year fraud between January 2013 and January 2015.

They created a complex chain of paperwork detailing fictitious transactions, which were used as a cover for the illicit sale of smuggled alcohol.

Officers caught the fraudsters when they installed covert cameras in one of the offices being used by the gang, HMRC said.

Image copyright HMRC
Image caption Top row (L-R): Riaz Khan, Jayesh Shah, Fiaz Raja; middle row (L-R): Divyesh Karsan, Salmon Ahmed, Muhammad Rasool; bottom row (L-R): Sameer Dhanji, Geoffrey Hayes

Footage was shown in court of Khan, Rasool and Raja giving instructions to other members of the gang of how to carry out the fraud.

A HMRC investigation team executed more than 20 warrants in January 2015 across London, Berkshire, Surrey, east Sussex and Buckinghamshire, seizing £370,000 cash and business records.

Richard Mayer, assistant director of HMRC's Fraud Investigation Service, said the gang stole millions of pounds of UK taxpayer money which should have been used to fund vital public services.

He added: "Money laundering supports organised crime and is harmful to businesses, the public and society as a whole."

Six of the gang were jailed in May after a three-month trial at Southwark Crown Court. Of the remaining three, one pleaded guilty in May and two were convicted after a second trial, which ended after eight weeks on 26 July at the same court.

Sentences:

Riaz Khan, 49, of Hatch Lane, Windsor, was convicted of cheating the public revenue and conspiracy to commit money laundering and jailed for eight years

Jayesh Shah, 53, of Crawford Avenue, Wembley, pleaded guilty to cheating the public revenue and conspiracy to commit money laundering and was jailed for seven years and six months

Fiaz Raja, 52, of Goldsworthy Way, Slough, pleaded guilty to cheating the public revenue and was jailed for six years

Divyesh Karsan, 50, of Grosvenor Crescent, London, pleaded guilty and was jailed for five years and two months

Salmon Ahmed, 49, of Wallis House, Brentford, pleaded guilty to cheating the public revenue and conspiracy to commit money laundering and was jailed for two years and five months

Muhammad Rasool, 38, of Carmarthen Road, Slough, was convicted of cheating the public revenue and conspiracy to commit money laundering and was jailed for eight years

Sameer Dhanji, 37, of Upton Road, Slough, was convicted of cheating the public revenue and was jailed for three years and six months

Geoffrey Hayes, 41, of Denmark Villas, Hove, pleaded guilty to cheating the public revenue and was jailed for three years and six months

Waqas Aslam, 37, of Church Road, Hayes, was convicted of cheating the public revenue and was sentenced to 26 weeks, suspended for 24 months, and 150 hours of unpaid work.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites