An Indian-origin mastermind of a fake designer clothing scam, accused of trying to steal around GBP 97 million through VAT repayment claims on false exports of textiles and mobile phones with the help of a criminal gang, was on Thursday sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment for tax fraud in the UK.
Sock manufacturer Arif Patel, 55, was found guilty last month in what Britain’s tax department described as one of the country’s largest ever “carousel” tax frauds.
Patel was found guilty of false accounting, conspiracy to cheat the public revenue, the onward sale of counterfeit clothing and money laundering following a 14-week trial at Chester Crown Court.
“Arif Patel lived a lavish lifestyle at the expense of the law-abiding majority. Tax crime is not victimless and fraudsters like this pair steal the money that funds the NHS [National Health Service] and other vital public services we all rely on,” said Richard Las, Director of the Fraud Investigation Service at His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), which was part of a joint investigation with the local Lancashire police.
Patel and his gang imported and sold counterfeit clothes that would have been worth at least GBP 50 million had they been genuine and the proceeds were then used to buy property across Preston in northern England and London through offshore bank accounts.
A co-accused, 58-year-old Mohamed Jaffar Ali from Dubai, who was also found guilty of conspiracy to cheat HMRC and money laundering has also been sentenced on Friday to 11 years’ imprisonment.
“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,” said Eamonn O’Neill, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service at HMRC.
The UK tax department said in total, 26 members of the 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 GBP 78 million of the gang’s assets have been restrained and the process to recover these proceeds of crime is in progress.
“Patel was sentenced in his absence, having remained in Dubai throughout the trial,” said Andrew Fox, Senior Prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
“The CPS will now pursue confiscation proceedings against the defendants, to prevent them enjoying the benefits of their criminal enterprise,” he said.
The HMRC said that Patel’s criminal enterprise relied on “dozens of lieutenants” around the UK, including professional enablers. This involved two chartered accountants from a Preston-based practice: Anil Hindocha, 69, from Preston, and Yogesh Patel, 66, from Aylesbury.
Earlier, Hindocha was jailed for 12 years and 10 months in 2014 after being found guilty of false accounting, conspiracy to cheat the tax department and money laundering. Yogesh Patel was jailed for five years and seven months for the same offences.