A criminal gang of five British men has been jailed for a total of 15 years for stealing £17m of taxpayers’ money in a complex VAT fraud involving the sale of mobile phones.
According to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) the gang carried out a scam known as ‘missing trader’ fraud.
The scam involved importing mobile phones, memory and SIM cards from the EU. The goods were then sold on along a contrived supply chain and exported back to the EU. The exporter would then claim a VAT credit from HMRC for the VAT paid on the purchase of the goods.
Gary Lampon, assistant director of criminal investigation for HMRC, said: ‘This was organised fraud on a massive scale used to blatantly fund the extravagant lifestyles of this criminal gang at the expense of the British taxpayer.’
Details of the case were revealed yesterday after a gag order was lifted over the trial at Southwark Crown Court, at which the defendants all pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to cheat the public revenue.
HMRC listed the defendants as West Midlands men Harbinder Singh Samra, 40, Ardip Singh Hayre, 27; Terence Thomas Broad, 65, of Staffordshire; Russell Crowther, 48, of north Wales; and Syed Faraz Hussain, 28, of Surrey.
A sixth man, Cameron Charles Thurston, 35, of Surrey, is set to be sentenced next week.
The scam was used to fund the gang’s lavish lifestyle. UK properties worth over £1 million each along with expensive cars, including a Rolls Royce Phantom for £250,000, a Ferrari for £165,000 and a property in Spain valued at over £1 million were all funded by the fraud.
The case was the result of a four-and-a-half year investigation into the fraud, which centred on the mobile phone industry, HMRC officials said.
More than £8 million assets have so far been restrained, according to HMRC, and confiscation proceedings are underway.
Officials added that paperwork recovered during house searches showed that the gang were planning on a further fraud to steal an additional £300 million of VAT from the public purse.