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  1. ITV Report

Jail for gang caught laundering £87m made by smuggling illegal booze

Eight members of a Berkshire-based gang which laundered £87million pounds they had made by smuggling alcohol have been jailed for a combined total of more than 46 years.

The men used a complex system of setting up and then closing companies to distribute and sell on their smuggled alcohol. In the process they created a false trail of paperwork and robbed the public purse of £34million pounds in unpaid VAT.

The gang operated from an office in Eton High Street and then moved their operation to Windsor during the two year scheme. Detectives seized computers, £370,000 in cash and business records while carrying out more than 20 raids across London, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Surrey and East Sussex. The gang were eventually caught by hidden cameras which investigators installed in one of their offices.

Top row first from left to right: Khan, Shah, Raja, Karsan, Ahmed, Rasool, Dhanji & Hayes

Pictured above, the ringleaders were Jayesh Shah, Riaz Khan, Fiaz Raja and Muhammad Rasool.

For their respective parts in the gang Riaz Khan from Windsor and Muhammad Rasool from Slough were jailed for eight years; Jayesh Shah from Wembley to seven-and-a-half years; Fiaz Raja from Slough to six years; Both Divyesh Karsan from London and Salmon Ahmed from Brentford to five years and two months; Sameer Dhanji from Slough and Geoffrey Hayes from Hove to three years and six months.

A ninth man, Waqas Aslam (not pictured) aged 38 of Church Road in Hayes, was convicted of cheating the public revenue, contrary to common law. He was handed a 26 week jail sentence suspended for 24 months and 150 hours unpaid work.

Investigators found more

Investigators from Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs (HMRC) using the hidden cameras captured footage of the gang explaining how the scheme worked. Evidence showed that £87m was laundered in more than 50 bank accounts in Britain, Hong Kong, Dubai and other foreign countries.

“This was a well-planned money laundering operation and tax fraud that stole millions of pounds of UK taxpayer money which should have been used to fund vital public services in the UK.

“The sums stolen by this organised crime group could have paid the equivalent of 1,400 salaries of newly-qualified teachers – enough to fully staff around 93 schools.

“Money laundering supports organised crime and is harmful to businesses, the public and society as a whole. Tackling this crime is a priority for HMRC and we will not hesitate to investigate those suspected of being involved.

“The honest majority of business owners pay what they owe and claim back the VAT they are entitled to claim. Concerted HMRC compliance activity has seen UK VAT losses from Missing Trader Intra-Community (MTIC) fraud decrease from three to four billion pounds in 2006 to around £250m a year today.

“If you know of anyone committing any type of tax fraud, you can report them to HMRC online or call our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”

– Richard Mayer, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC
Some of the money seized by the HMRC

“Each of the convicted defendants played their part in a sophisticated operation designed to defraud HMRC. Between January 2013 and January 2015, they generated a loss of £34.2 million to HMRC and I am pleased that we have brought this organised crime operation to justice.

“Despite the evidence against them, some of the defendants refused to admit their part in this operation, but we were able to prove otherwise. They will now spend more than 46 years in prison.”

– Nasra Butt, Crown Prosecution Service