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Fire crews dealing with potentially harmful substance in Kent

Kent Fire and Rescue Service is currently dealing with an incident involving a potentially harmful material at West Street pier in Gravesend.

Road closures are in place to allow emergency services to deal with the incident and so motorists are being asked to avoid the area if possible.

The substance causing the incident is called MDI isoscyanate, which is a component in expanding filler foam. It was being used by contractors to repair a floatation tank on a floating pontoon at Gravesend Pier.

The resulting chemical reaction creates a gas which is classed as an irritant.

This means it may causes problems with breathing or irritate the eyes, although it is more likely to affect those with a pre-existing condition.

Anyone affected should seek medical advice.

Residents in the affected areas are requested to continue to keep windows and doors shut for a further two hours. It is likely that the chemical smell will remain in the air for several days, but it is not harmful.

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Group convicted following multi-million pound investigation

A group of fraudsters from Gravesend and Surrey have been convicted at court in connection with a fraud which denied British taxpayers of millions of pounds.

Narinder Chada and Gurmail Dosanjh set up fraudulent companies to buy and sell carbon credits. They would buy the credits at market value, but sell them on the cheap while also charging their clients VAT. By keeping the VAT rather than passing it on to the Government, the scheme deprived the UK public purse of £11.7 million.

Two other defendants, father and son duo Daniel Andrew Barrs and Daniel Barrs facilitated money laundering for this fraud and a previous case dealt with by HMRC in 2012. The total amount laundered was in excess of £20 million.

The Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate commenced an investigation in May 2011 after information was passed to the force by HMRC. The first arrests were made in April 2012 and the complex case came to trial in 2015.

The two month-long trial at Southwark Crown Court concluded on 26 March. The four guilty men will be sentenced on 20 April.

Chada, 61, from The Russetts in Meopham; and Dosanjh, 46, from Singlewell Road in Gravesend were both found guilty of conspiracy to cheat the public purse. Barrs, 65, from New Place Gardens in Lingfield and his 29 year-old son, from Suffolk Close in Horley, were both found guilty of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

"The group traded in carbon credits, which allow companies to legitimately produce more carbon dioxide than they would otherwise be permitted to. They are an ideal commodity for this type of fraud because they do not exist in a physical sense. The offenders used companies to buy credits from overseas and sell them in the UK. They collected the proceeds of their sales and then dishonestly and deliberately abused the VAT system. When the offences took place in 2009, the rate of VAT was 15 per cent. The more carbon credits they sold, the more VAT they could charge and keep. Invoices and paperwork were required to convince HMRC that the trade was genuine, but otherwise the fraud was relatively straightforward. In all, the offenders charged their customers £11.7 million in VAT and moved the money between several companies to try and cover their tracks. We followed the trail of laundered cash from the UK to Europe, the Middle East and as far as New Zealand and Australia. Barrs and Barrs facilitated the money laundering by setting up three offshore corporate structures and provided money laundering platforms within overseas bank accounts. This was a very organised operation but we were determined to piece together enough evidence to bring those responsible to justice. This was not a victim-less crime. By depriving the Government of millions of pounds of VAT, the offenders were in effect stealing from all UK taxpayers. The money should have been spent on schools, hospitals and other services. Once sentencing has been passed, the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate will be using Proceeds of Crime Act legislation to attempt to recoup as much of the money for the taxpayer as possible. I hope this case serves as a warning to anyone trying to commit tax fraud that the authorities, whether Kent Police or HMRC, will catch up with you."

– Detective Constable Phil Kershaw
  1. David Johns (@davidjohns_itv)

Dead Man Talking

A man from Gravesend is trying to recover from the shock of being told he's dead by the local council.

Andrew Kirchin had been on holiday when his daughter received a letter from the authorities saying they were "adjusting" his council tax accordingly. He then got a note from the Inland Revenue as well.

David Johns reports, speaking to Andrew and his daughter Susan.

Son suffers burns after mum's oxygen cylinder catches fire in ASDA

A shopper in his 50s suffered burns to his hands and face after an oxygen cylinder belonging to his mother failed and caught fire.

The accident happened at the ASDA supermarket in Gravesend when the unnamed man placed the cylinder in a trolley.

It's believed the cylinder was being used for medical purposes. Fire crews extinguished the fire by cooling the cylinder with a hose reel.

The injured man was taken to hospital by ambulance. An investigation into the failure of the cylinder is underway.

Man found in street with 'serious head injuries' and no trousers

Police are appealing for witnesses after a a man in his 40s was found lying in the road with serious head injuries in just his boxers pants and a shirt.

He was found lying in Miskin Way in Gravesent at about 4.30am today.

He has been taken to hospital and is in critical condition.

Officers are currently at the scene examining areas in Miskin Way, Thistledown and Windmill Road as they try to understand what happened and whether a crime has taken place.

We are appealing for anybody who may have seen this man in the area before he was found injured.

"At the moment, we cannot say with any certainty whether his injuries might have been caused by a road traffic collision, a fall, an assault or something entirely different, so I would ask anybody with information to come forward."

– Det Insp Richard Woolley

Anyone with information is asked to call 01634 792350, quoting incident reference 19-0106.

Alternatively, if you wish to remain anonymous, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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He's certainly not a 'scaredy-cat': tabby walks into the line of fire

The RSPCA is appealing for information after a cat took a walk on the wild side, and wandered past a firing range and into a police training centre in Gravesend, Kent.

The adult tabby and white male cat, thought to be around two or three years old, was first spotted at the centre in Mark Lane on Thursday. It is not known where he came from as the centre is in a remote area far from any homes.

The cat certainly risked on of his nine lives

He made himself at home with the security guards at the gatehouse to the centre for a few days while staff fed him and cared for him as they tried to trace an owner.

"We're so far out here I just have no idea where he came from - he just turned up one day and settled himself in."

– LEANNE FERGUSON, SECURITY TEAM LEADER
  1. Derek Johnson @derekjohnsonitv

Gravesend statue honours wartime pilot

A statue of wartime fighter pilot Mahinder Singh Pujji has been unveiled in his adopted hometown, Gravesend. Mr Pujji was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for valour while flying in World War Two.

Mr Pujji died in 2010, aged 92.

We speak to: Satinder Pujji, son; Douglas Jennings, sculptor; Air Vice-Marshal Edward Stringer, Royal Air Force; Air Cdre Gurcharan Singh Bedi, Indian Air Force; Gurjit Bains, Gravesend Gurdwara.

VIDEO: Statue of RAF pilot unveiled in Gravesend

He was among the first Indian airmen to fight for Britain during World War Two, was shot down twice and saw many of his friends die in combat. But Mahinder Singh Pujji went on to become one of the RAF's most distinguished fighter pilots, flew all over the world and was honoured for his bravery.

Four years after his death, there is a permanent reminder of his exploits in his home town of Gravesend. A bronze statue of Squadron Leader Pujji now graces the riverfront, celebrating his exploits and the contribution of millions of Indian servicemen and women.

Watch the unveiling of the statue below.

Mr Pujji's son, Satinder, speaks to ITV Meridian about his father.

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