10 jailed in £120m VAT fraud

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Former Unique boss John McFarnon sentenced to three years as year-long IGB trial concludes

Ten people have been sentenced to a total of more than 64 years in jail for their roles in the £120 million VAT fraud case – which led to the collapse of mobile distributor Innovative Global Business Group (IGB) in 2008.

Former managing director of IGB subsidiary Unique Distribution, John McFarnon (pictured), is the most high-profile member of the group to receive a sentence. McFarnon’s trial concluded last October and he has been incarcerated since then.

The trial, which began in April last year, was subsequently divided into four separate trials because of the complexities of the case. Reporting restrictions were lifted last month.

The first trial saw IGB owner Haider Ravjani, Unique Distribution and Future communications director Dilawar Ravjani, Dilawar’s ‘right-hand man’ Tamraz Riaz and Future Communications financial director Zafar Chishti  accused of conspiracy to cheat the public revenue.

Dilawar Ravjani, who had been a director at Unique since 2005, was sentenced to 17 years on June 20 and disqualified from being a company director for 15 years.

Riaz received a 13-year sentence and was disqualified from holding directorships for 10 years.

Chishti was sentenced to 11 years in absentia and disqualified from being a director for 10 years.

Chishti was last known to be in Pakistan, and is liable to be jailed if he returns to the UK. Haider Ravjani was acquitted by jury.

Rajesh Gathani, a former executive at Future Communications, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the public revenue in February 2011 prior to the first trial.

He was sentenced on June 20 2011 to eight years in prison, and disqualified from taking a company directorship for eight years.

The second trial saw McFarnon jailed for three years after he pleaded guilty to fraudulent trading.

John Conroy, who worked for McFarnon’s firm GSM Europe prior to its liquidation in 2007, also received a three-year sentence after pleading guilty to the same charge.

Both have been  disqualified from holding a company director position for five years.

IGB director Roshan Ara Hussain was sentenced to 12 months for a series of acts tending and intending to pervert the course of justice. IGB legal director Razia Bibi was acquitted.

The case, codenamed ‘Operation Inertia’, concluded in Kingston Crown Court last month, with final sentencing scheduled for July 10.

It followed an investigation by the HMRC relating to carousel fraud with IGB businesses Unique and Future between  November 2005 and June 2006.

HMRC assistant director of criminal investigation Chris Martin hailed the work of the organisation in catching those behind fraud on such a large scale.

He said: “This was a complex and well-organised fraud which made a huge profit for the gang at the expense of UK taxpayers, but the dedication and techniques used by HMRC officers in this investigation resulted in the successful prosecution and convictions of these criminals.

“Fraud on this scale causes immense damage to the tax revenues of the UK and the European Union.”

The third and fourth trial consisted of people linked to IGB, although their actual relationship is unknown.

Lee Sellers pleaded guilty to fraudulent trading and was sentenced to 30 months in jail and disqualified from being a company director for five years.

Co-defendant Paul Smith also pleaded guilty to being knowingly concerned in fraudulent evasion of VAT and given a sentence of 12 months, suspended for two years, and ordered to do 240 hours of community service.

The third defendant in the trial, Marshall Boston, pleaded guilty in June this year and  will be sentenced on July 10.

Trial four concerned a group who were linked to the IGB case known as the ‘Slough five’, who all pleaded guilty before the trial in March this year.

Two of the defendants, Umar Khan Nazir and his brother Mehmood Khan Nazir,  pleaded  guilty to knowingly being concerned in fraudulent evasion of VAT and were sentenced to three years in jail and disqualified from being a company director for five years.

The third defendant, Waqar Bhatti, pleaded guilty to intent to defraud a creditor, and was given a 12-month sentence suspended for two years and ordered to do 150 hours of unpaid work.

Fourth defendant Mohammed Najeeb, also known as Mohammed Karim, pleaded guilty to using and having a false instrument, given a 12-month sentence suspended for two years and was ordered to carry out 80 hours of community service.

The final member, Ahmer Pervez-Bhatti, pleaded guilty to converting criminal property and sentenced to 12 months suspended for two years and ordered to do 180 hours of community service.

  • Dilawar Ravjani 17 years
  • Tamraz Riaz 13 years
  • Zafar Chishti 11 years
  • Rajesh Gathani 8 years
  • Roshan Ara Hussain 1 year
  • John McFarnon 3 years
  • John Conroy 3 years
  • Lee Sellers 30 months
  • Umar Khan Nazir 3 years
  • Mehmood Khan Nazir 3 years

1 COMMENT

  1. As a former employee of Unique What makes me cross is they are all in prisons, they’re fed, clothed, given prison pay all at my expense via the taxes I pay and their debt to HMCE has been paid for using OUR salaries!

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