Three men who tried to steal over £4.7 million in an alcohol tax fraud have been jailed after an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
Brothers Peter and Gurjit Singh Kunoor, from the West Midlands, and Amandeep Singh, from Northants, were caught after a lorry loaded with 2,000 litres of spirits, labelled for export from the UK, was seized by HMRC officers at an industrial estate in Lincolnshire.
During searches of the brothers’ home in Smethwick and a storage unit in Bilston, Wolverhampton, HMRC officers seized thousands of litres of illicit alcohol, cash and records.
HMRC’s Bob Gaiger said:
“These men attempted to disguise their illegal activities by destroying the export duty stamps and adding counterfeit labels. They then tried to sell the alcohol in the UK without paying any duty. They acted purely out of greed to line their own pockets, with no regard for the consequences to honest traders.
“HMRC is committed to protecting public finances from attacks by criminals and will not stand by and let these crooks rip off the law abiding public. Anyone who suspects illegal alcohol is being stored or sold locally can help us by calling the Customs hotline on 0800 59 5000.”
The fraud unravelled when a Mercedes lorry registered to Peter Singh Kunoor, driven by Amandeep Singh, pulled into an industrial unit in Lincolnshire in October 2010. Unknown to the men, HMRC officers were watching the premises and arrested Singh. When the vehicle was searched, over 2,000 litres of vodka were found. The bottles were labelled for export but the gang planned to sell the alcohol in the UK without paying any duty.
When HMRC officers searched the Kunoor home in Smethwick, they discovered £45,000 in cash hidden in carrier bags in a bedroom, along with over 60 litres of spirits. Documents were also found relating to a storage unit in Bilston, where officers seized a further 6,761 litres of beer and 2,101 litres of wine, on which no duty had been paid. All the alcohol was seized.
Although under investigation, when a van driven by Peter Singh Kunoor was stopped on the Grove Road, Birmingham, in December 2010, HMRC officers found cases of whisky with counterfeit labels and the tax stamps scratched off.
No legitimate invoices were provided for any of the seized alcohol. The total amount of duty evaded is estimated as £4,707,771.
A confiscation hearing is listed for 25 October 2013.
Notes for Editors
1. Peter Singh Kunoor (DOB 10/03/1977) of Florence Road, Smethwick, West Midlands. He was arrested on 2 March 2011 at his home address and charged with two counts: one of conspiracy to evade excise duty and one of possession of criminal property on 24 September 2012. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy and was convicted after trial for the second count of possession. He was sentenced last Friday (31 May 2013) at Birmingham Crown Court to five years imprisonment for count one and 18 months imprisonment for count two, both to run concurrently.
2. Gurjit Singh Kunoor (DOB 02/06/1980) of Florence Road, Smethwick, West Midlands. He was arrested at his home address on 3 May 2011 and charged with one count of conspiracy to evade excise duty on 24 September 2012. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced last Friday (31 May 2013) at Birmingham Crown Court to an 18 month prison sentence, suspended for two years.
3. Amandeep Singh (DOB 23/03/1981), who is Peter Singh Kunoor’s brother-in-law, of Warkton Way, Corby, Northants. He was arrested on 28 October 2010 at an industrial unit in Lincolnshire and charged on 29 April 2012 with one count of conspiracy to defraud excise duty. He pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing at Birmingham Crown Court and was sentenced at the same court on 31 May 2013 to three years in jail. He will serve half and will then be liable to deportation.
4. Legally the movement of duty suspended alcohol is controlled by HMRC and foreign customs authorities. Alcohol can be stored and moved between bonded warehouses within the EU without the payment of excise duties. When the alcohol is released for sale or exported, the excise duty becomes payable at the rates applicable in the host country where the alcohol is sold. In this case, therefore, UK duty was due as soon as the alcohol was diverted from the UK bonded warehouse onto the UK market.
5. Follow HMRC on Twitter @HMRCgovuk
6. Photos 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.