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German aviator forever linked with the town of Gravesend

Aviator became the first and only German prisoner of war to escape from Britain. Credit: ITV News Meridian

A town in Kent is honouring its links to a unique piece of wartime history. A plaque and information board in Gravesend will remember the exploits of the only German prisoner to have escaped from Britain in both world wars. Derek Johnson reports.


Huge cannabis factory discovered in Gravesend

A multimillion-pound cannabis operation has been uncovered by police at an industrial estate in Gravesend.

More than a thousand plants we seizes by officers after a search of a property at Canal Basin, and thousands were found at another property nearby.

Specialist officers remain on scene and will be examining the evidence found in the properties and carrying out initial enquiries – a process expected to take several days.

This is a hugely significant find of an operation clearly linked to organised crime gangs and we are appealing to members of the public to think back to whether they may have seen anybody behaving suspiciously in this area.

– Detective Inspector Kevin Downard, Kent Police

Man charged with murder in Gravesend

Gravesham Court, Clarence Row, Gravesend Credit: ITV news

A man has been charged with murder following the death of a man in Kent. Police were called to an address in Gravesham Court, Clarence Row in Gravesend on Sunday and discovered the body of 29 year old Danny Wallis.

Travis John Smith ,23, of no fixed abode has been charged with murder. He is due to appear before Medway Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday 3 June.

Three arrested after man found dead in Gravesend

"Kent Police was called to an address in Clarence Row, Gravesend, at 7.46pm on Sunday 31 May where officers located the body of a man in his 20s. Secamb attended and he was pronounced dead at the scene. Two men, both aged 23, and a woman aged 29, were subsequently arrested in Windmill Street on suspicion of murder and remain in police custody. Those arrested were known to the victim. Enquiries are on-going."

– Kent Police


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.

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
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