Two fugitives involved in one of Britain's biggest VAT frauds have been sentenced for their part in a £150m criminal racket.
Arif Patel, 55, and Mohamed Jaffar Ali, 59, both currently on the run from police in Dubai, were handed 20-year and 11-year jail terms respectively in their absence on Thursday following a 14-week trial.
Patel, thought to be the mastermind, tried to steal £97 million through VAT repayment claims on false exports of textiles and mobile phones.
The pair, who worked in a criminal gang, also imported and sold counterfeit clothes that would have been worth at least £50 million had they been genuine.
A joint Lancashire Police and HMRC investigation found their proceeds were used to buy property across Preston and London via offshore bank accounts.
Sock manufacturer Patel was found guilty of false accounting, conspiracy to cheat the public revenue, the onward sale of counterfeit clothing and money laundering.
Ali was also found guilty of conspiracy to cheat the public revenue and money laundering.
Sentencing the men at Chester Crown Court, HHJ Everett singled out Patel, saying he had led a “breathtakingly arrogant and dishonest organisation”.
Eamonn O’Neill, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service a tHMRC, said the lengthy sentences the men received reflected the severity of their crimes.
He said: “Arif Patel and Mohamed Jaffar Ali were at the heart of one of the biggest carousel tax frauds this country has ever seen and the severity of their crimes has been recognised by today’s sentencing.
“We are determined to ensure absconders face justice and we have helped secure the return of more than 70 fugitives since 2016, including some of the UK’s most harmful tax cheats."
Andrew Fox, Senior Prosecutor, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said the pair had cost the public tens of millions of pounds in lost tax revenue.
He added: “The CPS will now pursue confiscation proceedings against the defendants, to prevent them enjoying the benefits of their criminal enterprise.”
Sam Mackenzie, Assistant Chief Constable, Lancashire Constabulary, said: “This is money that should have been used to fund the vital public services which we all rely on and to which most of us contribute our fair share by working hard and paying tax."
In total, 26 members of this criminal empire have now been convicted and sentenced following six trials between 2011 and 2023, leading to jail terms totalling 147 years and seven months.
More than £78 million of the gang’s assets have been restrained and the process to recover these proceeds of crime is in progress.