Final sentencing in £37.5m fraud


The final defendant in a £37.5 million VAT fraud has been sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court. Harbans Singh Kohli, 47, of Ealing, London, was sentenced to two and a half years for laundering over £1 million in a missing trader fraud.

The case brings to a close one of the most complex investigations in the ongoing fight against fraud by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

In total, 21 were sentenced as part of HMRC’s Operation Devout, which traced the import of computer chips, mainly from Ireland, VAT free. The goods were sold via a carousel of traders with VAT added.

Once goods had been sold a number of times they were exported back to the EU, with the exporter claiming VAT from HMRC.

The gang divided the profits of the fraud and laundered them through various bank accounts in the UK and abroad. Twelve bank accounts were set up under trading names Woodland Supplies, Acorn Trading, Aurum Wholesale, Modular Design, Probus Computing, Aslan Creations, Rapid Distribution, GK Telecommunications, GK Telecom, Gardham, Glaston, NCT Training and Betta Solutions.

GK Telecom UK Ltd has said that it was not linked to the fraud, and that one of the men opened a bank account in the name of GK Telecom but had no dealings or connections with the company at all.

Operation Devout saw three linked trials and two re-trials with 14 men convicted and sentenced to a total of 26.5 years for their part in a plot to steal £12.5 million VAT.

The first trial saw Stephen Farrell sentenced to four years in prison, Mark Frederick Sheasby sentenced to three and a half, Somasuntharam Jeyakumar sentenced to three and a half, Syed Mubarak Ahmed sentenced to seven, Shakeel Ahmad sentenced to seven and Jaswender Singh Chahal sentenced to 18 months.

The second included Kohli’s case, as well as the sentencing of Martin Watmough, Leslie Pummell and Sukhdave Singh More to nine months each in prison for money laundering.

The third trial saw Stuart Emilios Angelides sentenced to 18 months, Peter Newey to nine months and Tariq Kamal to 12 months for money laundering. All three sentences were suspended. Christopher Traverse was sentenced to 18 months for laundering, plus six months after absconding to France.

A further seven men were sentenced to 37.5 years in a plot to steal £25 million in a similar fraud. Pravin Jogia was given three and a half years, Peter John Pomfrett was given eight and Jonah Adali-Mortty was given six. Babak Cherazi, Khaled Hamidi and Mustapha Mehmet were each sentenced to four years.

Timur Mehmet was sentenced to eight years.  Timur Mehmet is ‘on the run’, and was sentenced in his absence. A European warrant has been issued.