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Gang ringleader handed record jail term for £176m VAT scam from Stanmore office
The Stanmore ringleader of a 15-strong gang who tried to defraud more than £176million in VAT through a mobile phone scam has been jailed for 17 years.
Dilawar Ravjani, 34, of Uxbridge Road, was given the longest sentence ever handed out for VAT fraud after his company, Future Communications, based in Honeypot Lane, carried out a complex scheme in an attempt to defraud.
The business positioned itself in trading chains where it exported phones from a chain that started from a missing trader, while the same time acting as an importer, allowing other traders such as Unique Distribution, a sister company, to seek significant VAT payments.
The gang claimed to have sold four million mobile phones, worth £1.7billion, but in many cases the phone did not exist, with 5,700 fake business transactions created in order to claim large VAT payments.
HM Revenue & Customs officers started investigating the gang in May 2006 and arrests were made within weeks to prevent the £176m fraud.
The proceeds from the fraud were laundered using another Ravjani company called Property and Management Services Ltd – run by his sister, Roshan Hussain – and using various methods including an offshore bank, car sales businesses, a property investment company and a loans company.
During the arrests, officers seized around £170,000 in cash, including £47,000, which was found in carrier bags in the boot of a luxury car owned by John McFarnon, a director of Unique Distribution.
Reporting restrictions had been in place until the conclusion of the five trials of all 15 defendants, but it can now be revealed that Ravjani was sentenced to 17 years in prison on June 20 last year at Kingston Crown Court after he was found guilty of conspiracy to cheat the public revenue.
He was also disqualified from being a company director for 15 years.
Another member of the gang, 47-year-old Rajesh Gathani, of Lime Tree Court, Pinner, was handed an eight-year jail term for acting as the phone trader for the companies, and banned from being a company director for eight years.
Concluding the final trial at Kingston Crown Court, Judge Peter Birts said: “I would like to pay tribute to, and highly commend, the excellent and dedicated investigatory work of the two officers.
“I had the opportunity of observing the result of this work at close quarters for very many months and I've been very impressed, not only by integrity for the work – which I would expect – but also by the diligence and fairness shown during the process and dedication of the team.”
In total, 15 members of the gang from across the UK have been convicted of some part in the scam.