By Claire West

Five men have been jailed for 37½ years for their part in stealing £140m in a ‘missing trader’ (MTIC) Value Added Tax (VAT) fraud.

The men from London, Berkshire & Gloucester were jailed for their involvement in failing to pay over £140m of VAT due to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), after HMRC investigators uncovered their multi-million pound fraudulent activities.

Martin Brown, Assistant Director of Criminal Investigation for HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), said:

"The motivation of these men was pure greed. Their criminal activity blatantly deprived us all of millions of pounds for the nation's public services. Today’s sentences should be a lesson to anyone considering this type of crime. We are committed to pursue and prosecute those involved in this type of crime and reclaim any profits made. We urge anyone with information about this sort of criminal activity, to call the Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000 or email: and help us stamp it out.

Andrew Hart (40) of Cricklewood, London, Mohammed Chaudhery (36) of Slough, Berkshire, Kevin Davis (46) of Kilburn, London, and Abdul Jabbar Butt (49) of Wembley, Middlesex each set up their own limited company, most of which traded for a maximum of five weeks.

They imported mobile phones and central processing units (CPUs) VAT free from other EU countries and sold them on to their UK customers inclusive of VAT. The VAT due from each company ranged from £26.5m to £39.1m — none of which has been paid to HMRC. The money was laundered through overseas associates and each gang member was paid a nominal amount for their involvement in the fraud, up to a maximum of £30,000.

Tariq Sarwar (44) of Gloucester (formerly of Hounslow, Middlesex) dealt with the administration of Chaudhery’s business affairs and it is alleged he also co-ordinated the fraudulent activities of all the companies.

Investigators commenced their enquiries in October 2005 when they arrested Mohammed Chaudhery. Examination of his computer records identified links to the other gang members and their companies, which were all identified as MTIC defaulters.

Andrew Hart was found guilty on one count and Tariq Sarwar was found guilty on five counts of Cheating the Revenue contrary to Common Law at Croydon Crown Court on 16 February 2011, following a trial that lasted almost three and a half weeks.

Mohammed Chaudhery, Kevin Davis, and Abdul Jabbar Butt all pleaded guilty to cheating the Revenue contrary to Common Law at earlier hearings held in December 2010 and January 2011 at Croydon Crown Court.

On passing sentence, His Honour Judge Tanzer said:

"Society as a whole has been harmed by the type of activity you have indulged in. The loss to society is in the billions. Each of you played a part and did so for one reason only, to take for yourself money other taxpayers paid legitimately. Wider morality is not possessed by any of you."

Confiscation of assets is being sought.