HM Revenue & Customs has released details of a £250 million VAT fraud that generated its money from the supposed import and export of mobile phones. A number of people were arrested in July 2003, with the first sentences being handed down in 2008, although reporting restrictions prevented details of the crimes being published at the time. Fifteen people have now been sentenced in six separate trials.
Chris Martin, Assistant Director of Criminal Investigation for HM Revenue & Customs, said “The scale of this operation was unprecedented when we carried out the initial raids in 2003. We had 350 officers visiting around 100 premises across the UK and Spain which led to the arrest of 42 people. VAT fraud is a serious crime which diverts vital income from the UK’s public services into the pockets of career criminals to fund their lavish and luxurious lifestyles. There are clear associations between this type of organised crime and violence, shootings, kidnap, extortion and drug trafficking. We will do everything in our power to put a stop to these sustained and determined criminal attacks against the taxpayer. This sends a clear signal to anyone involved or considering becoming involved in VAT fraud that the crime is serious and so are the penalties.”
Defendants included Nasir Khan, who’d used his company - The Accessory People plc - to trade fraudulently in mobile phones. Its turnover had increased from £13 million in 2002 to £219 million in 2003. He’s been sentenced to nine years in prison, while fourteen other criminals have been jailed for almost 90 years in total for their part in the conspiracy.
The entire investigation by HMRC took ten years.