"This was a well-planned money laundering operation"
Four men from Windsor and Slough have been jailed for their role in a £120 million alcohol scam.
The group of nine, led by Jayesh Shah, Riaz Khan, Fiaz Raja and Muhammad Rasool, stole £34 million in VAT and laundered £87 million between January 2013 and 2015.
Following their sentence at Southwark Crown Court, the gang has been jailed for more than 46 years.
The gang orchestrated a missing trader (MTIC) VAT fraud, they then laundered the stolen tax and proceeds from selling dodgy alcohol.
The fraud would begin with a company supplying goods to another and charging VAT on them.
However, instead of the supplying company handing over the VAT to HMRC, the gang would keep the money and the business would disappear, becoming a “missing trader”.
The same shipments of goods would later be sold on through one or more “buffer companies” before reaching a cash and carry at the end of the chain.
Each company would submit a VAT return showing that little or no tax was due to HMRC.
The group used paperwork with bogus transactions to cover up the sale of smuggled alcohol.
Evidence revealed that £87 million was laundered in over 50 bank accounts in the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Cyprus, Dubai and other foreign regions.
HMRC conducted an investigation and discovered that the gang worked from a building on Eton High Street and then moved to Windsor.
But they were caught after police installed cameras in one of the offices being used.
Footage showed Khan, Rasool and Raja instructing other members as to how to carry out the alcohol scam.
The operation came to an end in January 2015 after more than 20 warrants were executed. Investigators seized computers, business records and £370,000 in cash.
Six members were jailed earlier in 2019 following a three-month trial. Of the remaining three, one admitted to the charges in May 2019 while two were found guilty after a second trial which concluded on July 26, 2019.
Richard Mayer, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, explained:
“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 £250 million a year today.
“If you know of anyone committing any type of tax fraud, you can report them to HMRC online or call our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”
Nasra Butt, of the CPS, said: “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 £34.2m 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.”
- Riaz Khan, aged 49, of Windsor, was jailed for eight years.
- Jayesh Shah, aged 52, of Wembley, was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison.
- Fiaz Raja, aged 51, of Slough, was jailed for six years.
- Muhammad Rasool, aged 38, of Slough, was jailed for eight years.
- Sameer Dhanji, aged 37, of Slough, was jailed for three years and six months.
- Divyesh Karsan, aged 50, of Grosvenor Crescent, London, was jailed for five years and two months.
- Salmon Ahmed, aged 49, of Brentford, was jailed for five years and two months.
- Geoffrey Hayes, aged 41, of Hove, was jailed for three years and six months.
- Waqas Aslam, aged 38, of Hayes, was sentenced to 26 weeks in prison, suspended for 24 months. He was also ordered to do 150 hours of unpaid work.
Berkshire Live reported that confiscation proceedings against the gang are now underway.