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Hampshire based B&Q to close 60 stores

The retailer is closing 60 stores Credit: PA

Hampshire based DIY store B&Q has announced it is to close about 60 branches over the next two years as part of a restructure.

The retailer, whose head office is in Chandler's Ford, has seen profits fall.

As part of a restructuring of its UK and Ireland business parent company Kingfisher, which also owns Screwfix, plans to axe about 15% of surplus space.

It follows a review of its 360-strong B&Q estate.

The move was announced as it posted a 7.5% drop in annual profits to £675m.

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M25 closures due to strong winds - QE2 Bridge and Dartford Tunnel delays

  • The M25 clockwise (QE2 bridge) is closed due to strong winds from J31 A1306 (West Thurrock) to J1A A282 / A206 / B3228 (Swanscombe)

A diversion is in place using the Dartford Tunnel.

  • Two lanes closed due to contraflow on M25 Dartford Tunnel anticlockwise between J1A A282 / A206 / B3228
  • The left-hand tunnel remains open, but the right-hand tunnel is being used by clockwise traffic diverted off the QE2 Bridge

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As the general election looms, ITV wants to hear from those who think it's all a big turn-off!

ITV's brand new daytime debate series O'Brien, hosted by James O'Brien, begins on Monday at 12.30 on ITV. We're looking for people to come and talk about voting in the general election.

Are you an older voter who has voted all their life, but has decided not to bother anymore and won't be voting this year? If so we'd like to hear from you.

Contact the team on 0161 9520548 / obrien@itv.com

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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