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Phone fraudsters ordered to pay back £35m

Press Release   •   Jun 10, 2014 13:23 BST

Four men have been ordered to repay £35 million or face more time in prison after being jailed for a total of 50 years for their part in an attempted £176 million VAT fraud.

They were part of a gang which claimed to have sold more than four million mobile phones but were caught after an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) revealed many of the phones were fictitious. Investigators reviewed VAT repayment claims submitted by companies linked to the conspiracy and stopped £67 million being paid to them.

Dilawar Ravjani, from Middlesex, was jailed for 17 years for his part in a leading a 15-strong criminal gang. The gang also included Tamraz Riaz, from Wakefield, who was sentenced to 13 years; Rajesh Gathani, from Middlesex, who was sentenced to eight years; and Zafar Chishti, from Watford, who was sentenced to 11 years. Chishti fled prior to his trial and is still on the run.

The gang claimed to have sold mobile phones worth around £1.7 billion, but in many cases the phones did not exist – including 250,000 handsets which hadn’t even been launched in the UK. They also faked 5,700 business documents in an attempt to make their trade seem legitimate.

Robert Alder, Assistant Director, Criminal Investigation, HMRC, said:

“This major investigation uncovered the severe abuse of our tax system by a ruthless criminal gang who made a huge profit from the fraud. They have already lost their freedom and now their illegal wealth will be taken away as well. These confiscation orders will rid these criminals of all their illicit gains so they can be reclaimed for public finances.”

Notes for editors

1. The fraud involved the VAT-free import and export of mobile phones from EU countries. The phones were supposedly sold on through a chain of companies in the UK with VAT added. Invoices were issued to facilitate the fraud and reclaim the VAT. They would then claim that the phones had been exported back to EU countries.  

A corrupt freight forwarding company also provided false paperwork for the alleged transportation of the phones and then claimed an additional VAT repayment.

Eleven other gang members were sentenced to a total of 21 years and confiscation proceedings are now underway to reclaim their criminal profits.

2. Photographs of the defendants are available from HMRC’s Flickr channel www.flickr.com/hmrcgovuk

3. Details of the confiscation orders secured yesterday, 9 June 2014, at Kingston-upon-Thames Crown Court:

  ·  Dilawar Ravjani (DOB 10.10.77), currently of HM Prison Service and formerly of Dubai and
     Uxbridge Road, Stanmore, Middlesex, was ordered to repay £30,005,794 immediately or serve a 
     further 10 years in prison.
     He was found guilty of Conspiracy to Cheat the Public Revenue and sentenced in June 2011 at 
     Kingston Crown Court to 17 years in prison. He was also disqualified from being a company
     director for 15 years. 
     Ravjani was the main organiser and a director of Future Communications (UK) Ltd and controlled
     Unique Distribution Ltd – family businesses operating from offices in Stanmore, Middlesex and
     Abingdon, Oxfordshire.

  ·  Tamraz Riaz (DOB 12.08.76) currently of HM Prison Service and formerly of Plumpton Road, 
     Wakefield, Yorkshire, was ordered to repay £200,435 within four months or serve a further two and
     a half years in prison. He was found guilty of Conspiracy to Cheat the Public Revenue and  
     sentenced in June 2011 at Kingston Crown Court to 13 years in prison. He was also disqualified
     from being a company director for 10 years. 
     Riaz was a family friend of the Ravjanis and Dilawar Ravjani’s right-hand man. He was manager of
     the Ravjani companies, a phone trader, and ran car sales businesses in Stanmore and Wakefield,
     Prestige Cars and Crystal Cars Ltd. He laundered the proceeds of the fraud through Crystal Cars
     Ltd.

  ·  Zafar Chishti (DOB 28.07.79), currently on the run, formerly of Pakistan and St James Road,
     Watford, and now believed to be in Dubai, was ordered to repay £5 million with immediate effect or
     receive a further seven year prison sentence.
     He was found guilty of Conspiracy to Cheat the Public Revenue and sentenced in his absence in
     June 2011 at Kingston Crown Court to 11 years in prison and a further year, to run consecutively,
     for attempting to pervert the course of justice. He was also disqualified from being a company
     director for 10 years. 
     Chishti is featured on HMRC's “Most Wanted” list of tax fugitives. Further details are available at:
     https://www.flickr.com/photos/hmrcgovuk/7787501344/in/set-72157631087785530 
     Chishti was the financial director of the Ravjani companies and all those in the Innovative Global
     Business Group Ltd. He authorised the fraudulent trade in mobile phones, including the deals
     between Future Communications (UK) Ltd and Unique Distribution Ltd.

  ·  Rajesh Gathani (DOB 17.04.65), currently of HM Prison Service and formerly of Lime Tree Court,
     Pinner, Middlesex, was ordered to repay £56,084 within three months or serve a further 18 months
     in prison.
     He pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Cheat the Public Revenue and was sentenced in June 2011 at
     Kingston Crown Court to eight years in prison. He was also disqualified from being a company
     director for eight years.
     Gathani was a phone trader for the Ravjani companies and the sales manager of Future ~
     Communications (UK) Ltd and Unique Distribution Ltd and worked from its office in Stanmore.

4. For sentencing details of all defendants and their roles, go to http://www.mynewsdesk.com/uk/hm-revenue-customs-hmrc

5. Follow HMRC on Twitter @HMRCgovuk

 

Issued by HM Revenue & Customs Press Office

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is the UK’s tax authority.

HMRC is responsible for making sure that the money is available to fund the UK’s public services and for helping families and individuals with targeted financial support.