Four men have been ordered to repay £35 million or face more time in prison after being jailed for a total of 50 years for their part in an attempted £176 million VAT fraud.
They were part of a 15-strong gang, which claimed to have sold more than four million mobile phones but were caught after an investigation revealed many of the phones were fictitious.
Investigators reviewed VAT repayment claims submitted by companies linked to the conspiracy and stopped £67 million being paid to them.
Dilawar Ravjani, from Middlesex, was jailed for 17 years for his part in a leading a 15-strong criminal gang. He was ordered to repay £30,005,794 immediately or serve a further 10 years in prison.
The gang also included Tamraz Riaz, from Wakefield, who was sentenced to 13 years and was ordered to repay £200,435 within four months or serve a further two and a half years in prison.
Riaz was a family friend of the Ravjanis and Dilawar Ravjani’s right-hand man. He was manager of the Ravjani companies, a phone trader, and ran car sales businesses in Stanmore and Wakefield, Prestige Cars and Crystal Cars Ltd. He laundered the proceeds of the fraud through Crystal Cars Ltd.
Rajesh Gathani, from Middlesex, who was sentenced to eight years and was ordered to pay £56,084 within three months or serve a further 18 months in prison.
Zafar Chishti, from Watford, who was sentenced to 11 years.
Chishti who fled prior to his trial and is still on the run and was ordered to repay £5 million with immediate effect or receive a further seven year prison sentence. Chishti is featured on HMRC's “Most Wanted” list of tax fugitives.
The gang claimed to have sold mobile phones worth around £1.7 billion, but in many cases the phones did not exist – including 250,000 handsets which hadn’t even been launched in the UK. They also faked 5,700 business documents in an attempt to make their trade seem legitimate.
Robert Alder, Assistant Director, Criminal Investigation, HMRC, said: “This major investigation uncovered the severe abuse of our tax system by a ruthless criminal gang who made a huge profit from the fraud.
“They have already lost their freedom and now their illegal wealth will be taken away as well. These confiscation orders will rid these criminals of all their illicit gains so they can be reclaimed for public finances.”
A corrupt freight forwarding company also provided false paperwork for the alleged transportation of the phones and then claimed an additional VAT repayment.
Eleven other gang members were sentenced to a total of 21 years and confiscation proceedings are now underway to reclaim their criminal profits.