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Windsor and Slough gang members jailed for £120m illicit alcohol scam

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Four men from Windsor and Slough have been jailed for their part in committing £121 million of fraud.

The gang of nine stole £34 million in VAT and laundered £87 million after selling illicit smuggled alcohol.

They include Riaz Khan, 49, of Hatch Lane, Windsor, Fiaz Raja, 51, of Goldsworthy Way, Slough, Muhammad Rasool, 38, of Carmarthen Road, Slough and Sameer Dhanji, 37, of Upton Road, Slough.

Top to bottom, left to right, Riaz Khan, Jayesh Shah, Fiaz Raja, Divyesh Karsan, Salmon Ahmed, Muhammad Rasool, Sameer Dhanji, Geoffrey Hayes.

A HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigation found the gang operated between January 2013 and 2015 out of an office in Eton and then Windsor.

Headed up by Khan, Raja, Rasool and Jayesh Shah, 52, of Crawford Avenue, Wembley, the gang orchestrated a complex MTIC (Missing Trader Intra Community) fraud scheme.

The scheme would begin with one company purportedly supplying goods, illicit alcohol importations, to another and charging VAT on them.

But instead of the supplying company handing over the VAT to HMRC, the fraudsters would pocket the money and the company would later disappear – becoming a ‘missing trader’.

The same consignment of goods would then be sold through one or more ‘buffer companies’ - each company in the chain would submit a VAT return showing that little or no tax was due.

At the end of the chain the goods would reach a cash-and-carry.

Using companies under the gang’s control, evidence shows £87 million in proceeds was laundered through more than 50 bank accounts in Britain, Cyprus, Hong Kong, Dubai and other foreign countries.

The gang were caught red-handed when officers installed cameras in one of the offices they used.

Footage shows Khan, Rasool and Raja giving comprehensive instructions to other members of how to carry out the fraud.

The investigation team dismantled the complex operation after executing more then 20 warrants in January and seizing computers, £370,000 cash and business records.

Confiscation proceeding against the group are now underway.

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.

“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."

The gang of nine was sentenced at Southwark Crown Court for a total of 46 years and six months.

Six of the men were jailed earlier this year after a three-month trial. Of the remaining three, one pleaded guilty in May and two were convicted after a second trial, which lasted for eight weeks, and ended on July 26.

Raja admitted to cheating the public revenue and a further count of conspiracy to commit money laundering was ordered to lie on file. He was sentenced to six years in prison on May 24.

Khan and Rasool were both convicted after trial of cheating the public revenue and conspiracy to commit money laundering and sentenced to eight years on May 24.

Dhanji was convicted after a second trial of cheating the public revenue and sentenced to three years and six months in jail on September 6.

Other gang members convicted include Jayesh Shah, 52, of Crawford Avenue, Wembley, Divyesh Karsan, 50, of Grosvenor Crescent, London, Salmon Ahmed, 49, of Wallis House, Brentford, Waqas Aslam, 38, of Church Road, Hayes and Geoffrey Hayes, 41, of Denmark Villas, Hove.

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 £34.2 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.”

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.

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