£120m booze fraudsters jailed for 46 years

Legal | South East

A Berkshire-based gang that stole £34m in VAT and laundered £87m after selling illicit alcohol have been jailed for more than 46 years.

Nine fraudsters, headed up by Jayesh Shah, Riaz Khan, Fiaz Raja and Muhammad Rasool, orchestrated a missing trader (MTIC) VAT fraud. Gang members then laundered the stolen tax and the proceeds from selling illicit alcohol.

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

Evidence showed £87m was laundered through more than 50 bank accounts in Britain, Cyprus, Hong Kong, Dubai and other foreign countries.

A HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigation found the gang operated from an office in Eton High Street, and then moved to Windsor during the two-year fraud.

Officers caught the fraudsters red-handed when they installed covert cameras in one of the offices being used by the gang. Footage was shown in court of Khan, Rasool and Raja giving comprehensive instructions to other members of how to carry out the fraud.

Now, the gang of nine have been sentenced to more than 46 years in prison.

Richard Mayer, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, 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.”

Nasra Butt of the Crown Prosecution Service 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.”

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