The final member of a mobile phone import gang said to have scammed £60 million ($97 million) in VAT rebates from the UK Government has been sentenced to seven years in prison.
Kuldip Singh Sander was said during his trial at Birmingham Crown Court to have acted as the money launderer for a gang that imported mobile phones and computer chips components from Europe, selling them on to one another in order to claim a 17.5 percent VAT rebate.
The criminals came back for a second helping by exporting and selling the goods for real, generating a further claim for VAT in a crime known to law enforcement as ‘Missing Trader Intra-Community (MTIC)’ fraud, a variation on carousel fraud. The gang would then have disappeared without re-paying the VAT.
During the course of the scam, the gang set up many bogus VAT registered businesses and bank accounts with the alleged help of a bank employee and a customs official. Sander’s job would have been to turn the money gained into legitimate proceeds by hiding its origins, probably the most difficult challenge in the whole scam.
The HMRC launched its own investigation in 2002 in an operation dubbed ‘Operation Capri’, which since then has resulted in 17 people being charged in five separate trials for a total of 59 years in prison.
“This was not some kind of victimless crime, but organised fraud on a massive scale perpetrated by criminals all bent on making fast and easy profits at the expense of the British taxpayer,” said HMRC assistant director, Adrian Farley.
“This was theft of revenue needed to fund our country’s public services but instead it fuelled their elaborate lifestyles,” a reference in the latest sentencing to Sander’s taste for horse race gambling.
Confiscation orders to recover money stolen from the HMRC now total £13 million with the likelihood that more will follow. The bulk of the £60 million will likely never been seen again, however.