The men, all from Blackburn, were sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court following investigations by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) that identified three north west based companies importing platinum ingots from Italy and selling them on without paying the VAT due to HMRC.
Alan Lee, HMRC Director of Criminal Investigation said:
“HMRC officers identified suspicious trading between several north west companies in 2006 and 2007. Their customers were paying VAT on items they bought but the metal traders were not declaring it. They simply pocketed the cash for their own personal gain. Tax fraud and attempts to launder the proceeds of crime are treated extremely seriously by HMRC, and we will relentlessly pursue any individuals or crime gangs believed to be attacking the Public Revenue in this way.”
In court, HMRC evidence proved that Shabir Karim (41) was the principal controller who orchestrated the trading and he was assisted by accomplices Kamran (41) and Imran (38) Bhatti. A fourth man involved, Raymond Bowden (69) of Altrincham in Cheshire absconded during the trial and was found guilty in his absence – a bench warrant has been issued for his arrest and he will be sentenced when found.
The jailed men, who were all found guilty of cheating the revenue, will be disqualified as directors and subject to Crime Prevention Orders upon release. They also face Proceeds of Crime assessments.
Notes to editors
1. Details of the individuals sentenced today are:
- Shabir Karim (dob 24/12/71) of Billinge End Road, Blackburn, Lancashire was a director of Bullion Traders and the principal controller of the fraud. His Honour judge Warnock described Karim as a “manipulative, selfish and calculating man who controlled the fraud from start to finish”. Karim was sentenced to seven years in jail and upon release is disqualified from acting as a company director for eight years and subject to a Crime Prevention Order (CPO) for four years.
- Kamran Bhatti (dob 31/12/71) of Churchill Road, Blackburn, Lancashire was the director of KB Jewellers, was linked to RBA Trading and Regal Metals and was the front man in the fraud. HHJ Warnock said he “destroyed documents” and was “a willing helper and organiser in the fraud”. Kamran was jailed for five years and upon release is disqualified from directorship for six years and subject to a CPO for four years.
- Imran Bhatti (dob 17/08/73) of Brooklands Terrace, Blackburn, Lancashire was the director of Regal Metals. Imran is Kamran’s brother. In court the judge said he "formed and fronted one of the bogus trading companies”. Imran was sentenced to five years in jail, with a six-year director disqualification and a four-year CPO.
2. Details of fourth individual found guilty:
- Raymond Bowden (dob 13/03/43) Barrington Road, Altrincham, Cheshire was the director of RBA Trading. Bowden was found guilty today but absconded during the trial and the court has issued a bench warrant for his arrest he will be sentenced when found. Bowden was often a courier for the shipments, collecting the imports at UK airports.
3. Follow us on Twitter @hmrcgovuk
4. Images are available on HMRC’s flickr channel www.flickr.com/hmrcgovuk
Issued by HM Revenue & Customs Press Office
HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is the UK’s tax authority.
HMRC is responsible for making sure that the money is available to fund the UK’s public services and for helping families and individuals with targeted financial support.