Gang of 15 jailed for £250m VAT fraud

A gang of 15 criminals has been jailed for their roles in a £250m VAT fraud that took place between June 2001 and July 2003.

Nasir Khan, 39, from Putney Wharf, London, was sentenced to nine years for money laundering in the sixth and final trial at Southwark Crown Court.

The other 14 were sentenced for conspiracy to cheat the public revenue at earlier trials.

It follows a 10-year investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

On 2 July 2003, HMRC officers carried out a series of co-ordinated arrests across the country as part of Operation Euripus.

They seized more than half a million documents and 130 computer hard drives as they targeted those involved in a fraud centred around mobile phones.

Chris Martin, from HMRC, said: "The scale of this operation was unprecedented when we carried out the initial raids in 2003. We had 350 officers visiting around 100 premises across the UK and Spain which led to the arrest of 42 people."

'Career criminals'

The first trial took place in September 2008 but court reporting restrictions meant the identities of all defendants and their sentences could not be revealed until now.

Those jailed on 19 April 2011 were Jo-Anne Halliday, 41, from Royal Way, Stoke-on-Trent, and Curtis Laurent, 53, from Cefn Rise, Newport, Gwent, who both received two years and 10 months each.

Dennis Hunter, 61, from Woburn Close, Wimbledon, was given nine years and 60-year-old Peter Arthur Ebbrell, from Borrowell Lane, Coventry, received four years and five months on 26 November 2010.

Hashib Ansari Apabhai, 51, and 31-year-old Eisa Masihullah Apabhai, both from Gatehouse Lane, Bedworth, were sentenced with Adam Amani, 50, from Reddington Road, Nuneaton, on 14 January 2010.

Eisa Masihullah Apabhai received six years, while the other two were given seven-and-a-half years each.

On 20 July the previous year 47-year-old German Castillo from Castelldefels in Barcelona, Jonathon Baigent, 45, from Shanklin Road, Godshill, Isle of Wight, and Denise Westmoreland, 45, from New Road in Trewn, Cornwall, received prison terms.

Castillo was sentenced to 10 years and the other two received six-and-a-half years each.

'Serious crime'

The initial trial at Southwark ended with the sentencing of four defendants on 12 September 2008. The four included 39-year-old Taher Majid from Ty Draw Road, Cardiff, who was given 10 years, and Abdul Koser, 45, from Chelsfield Grove, Manchester, who received five years.

The other two were Quentin Reynolds, 49, from Hornsey Lane, Highgate, London, who was given four-and-a-half years, and 41-year-old Marcus Hughes of HMP Wandsworth.

Only Hughes, who was sentenced to six years, pleaded guilty to the charge.

Mr Martin added: "VAT fraud is a serious crime which diverts vital income from the UK's public services into the pockets of career criminals to fund their lavish and luxurious lifestyles.

"There are clear associations between this type of organised crime and violence, shootings, kidnap, extortion and drug trafficking.

"This sends a clear signal to anyone involved or considering becoming involved in VAT fraud that the crime is serious and so are the penalties."

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