Seven men have been sentenced to over 40 years for their part in stealing £38 million in a ‘missing trader’ tax fraud which used the import of mobile phones and computer parts to manipulate the VAT system. A further two will be sentenced in the coming weeks.
Six of the men were convicted following a trial at Birmingham Crown Court, two pleaded guilty to the offences prior to trial and a ninth man who also pleaded guilty is currently serving a 6.5 year jail term for similar offences.
The multi-million pound attack on public funds in 2005, was uncovered by criminal investigators from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) who unravelled a complex conspiracy of deceit involving a chain of companies both here and abroad set up solely for the purpose of stealing money from the UK government.
Confiscation proceedings are underway and properties worth in excess of £2.5 million have been restrained including a Spanish holiday home.
Gary Lampon, Assistant Director of Criminal Investigation for HMRC, said:
“These men were relentless in their pursuit to steal vast amounts of public money. Their primary aim was to get rich quick and avoid detection by laundering the proceeds of their crime overseas. They enjoyed extravagant lifestyles, exclusive homes, performance cars and designer jewellery - ultimately at the expense of law abiding tax payers.”
The gang set up highly complex chains of VAT registered companies, both here and abroad, to carry out the fraud. This included two companies, Sky Computers UK Ltd, based in Middlesex and Maxro Technology Ltd, based in Surrey, who were at the centre of the plot.
The conspiracy involved the import of mobile phones and computer processing units (CPUs) predominantly from Dubai via Europe. Once in the UK, the goods would be sold on, but with VAT added, through a series of companies. Once the goods had been sold on a number of times they would be exported back to the EU. The exporter would then claim a VAT credit from HMRC for the VAT paid on the purchase of the goods – although this was never paid in the first place.
This money would then be siphoned off and laundered through overseas companies in Dubai and Spain and the gang would divide the dishonest profits of the fraud.
Enquiries were launched when links were identified in an associated investigation, codenamed Operation Elemi. This saw seven men from the Midlands and one from Dubai jailed for nearly 34 years in 2008 and 2009. It involved money laundering offences exploiting the casino industry. This money included the profits from a number of activities including drug trafficking, multi-million pound VAT conspiracies in the mobile phone industry, counterfeiting and credit card fraud.
1. Photographs of some of the defendants are available on request. All were found guilty except Harnaik Sandhu, Iqbal Gandham and Malcolm Edwards-Sayer, who pleaded guilty.
2. Details of the defendants sentenced today, 4 February 2011, at Birmingham Crown Court include.
· Jasbinder Singh Bedesha, (DOB 26.07.61) of Arabian Ranches, Dubai, UAE, was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison.
Bedesha was previously sentenced to seven and a half years in jail as the principal player in Operation Elemi. He was granted a re-trial and today’s sentencing is the outcome of this second trial.
· Stephen Stark, (DOB of 01.08.47), of 24 College Gardens, Chingford, London, was sentenced to six and a half years in prison.
· Daamin Kaif, (DOB 27.01.71) of The Den, 13 Badgers Hill, Virginia Water, Surrey, was sentenced to six and a half years in prison.
· Duminda Thantrimudali, (DOB 13.09.73) of 39 Thames Avenue, Perivale, Greenford, Middlesex, was sentenced to eight years in prison. He received an additional three months, to run consecutively, for Contempt of a Restraint Order.
· Baljinder Singh Sandhu, (DOB 01.04.69) of 5 Moorland Road, Whitmoor Park, Coventry, was sentenced to five years in prison.
· Mario Vocaturo, (DOB 29.08.64) of 838, Woodborough Road, Mapperley, Nottingham, was sentenced to six years in prison.
They faced charges of Conspiracy, Cheating the Public Revenue and Money Laundering under the Criminal Law Act 1977.
3. Details of the defendant sentenced on 24 June 2010 at Birmingham Crown Court for tax evasion include:
· Convicted fraudster Malcolm Edwards-Sayer, (DOB 27.10.58), of HM Prison Service and previously of Bramcote, Nottingham, was sentenced to 12 months in prison.
He was involved in the generation of false documentation to carry out the fraud.
Edwards-Sayer, a former law lecturer and lay preacher, was previously sentenced to 6.5 years in prison on 29 November 2007 in a linked case, Operation Gnawed. He also received a further 3.5 years to run consecutively for 16 counts of deception on charges brought by Nottingham Police for pretending to be a solicitor.
4. The sentencing of two other defendants who pleaded guilty has been adjourned until:
· Iqbal Singh Gandham, (DOB 26.01.75) of 202 Cherry Orchard Road, Handsworth Wood, Birmingham, will be sentenced on 16 February 2011.
· Hamaik Singh Sandhu, (DOB 19.07.73) of 37 Mulberry Road, Courthouse Green, Coventry, will be sentenced in the next few weeks – date to be confirmed.
5. Copies of the new releases for Operations Elemi and Gnawed are available on request.
6. Follow HMRC on Twitter at: @HMRCgovuk.
Issued by HM Revenue & Customs Press Office
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