Friday Apr 26, 2019
LONDON: Some of the corrupt proceeds of around £8billion VAT (Value Added Tax) and benefit fraud were allegedly used to fund al-Qaeda’s madrassas, training camps and other training camps abroad, according to a leaked intelligence report.
It is claimed that around 1% of the total fraud gain – or £80m – were allegedly used for projects associated with terrorist activities by a group of Asian fraudsters who executed fraud activities to make millions, using legitimate businesses.
One of the persons involved in the overall scam has been identified as Glasgow-born Imran “Immy” Hussain who fled to Pakistan, evading arrest in Britain. Sources close to Imran Hussain have stressed he never had anything to do with terrorism.
Imran Hussain has been on the run from HMRC investigators for six years over a VAT scam in which he allegedly stole £300million from UK taxpayers. He first went to Dubai and lived there and then moved to Pakistan. He launched a bid to return to UK in 2012 but nothing much happened after a lawyer who went to Pakistan to meet him and take instructions for the court case died of a heart attack.
In a report published in a major newspaper here, name of Governor Punjab Muhammad Sarwar’s son has also been linked to the fugitive.
It has been alleged that Hussain, who owned a chain of sunbed salons, and a network of Scottish Asian traders stole money through imports and exports as each fictitious trade let the group reclaim 20% of the goods’ value in VAT rebates from the Treasury.
The gang worked for two decades to make extraordinary profits by cheating the HMRC. Hussain, born in Glasgow, was first arrested along with Athif Sarwar in 1998 for getting involved in a gang brawl. Athif was cleared but Hussain was convicted of assault and breach of the peace.
While Chaudhry Sarwar moved to Pakistan to first join PML-N and then PTI, his son took over his business and now has more than 300 convenience stores in western Scotland.
The report says that the Asian gang’s activities came under the radar in 1995 for the first time but it was in 2005 when the authorities became worried after July 2005 London bombings in which 52 people were killed. One of the bombers Shehzad Tanweer, 22, had been identified by HMRC two years earlier as a member of one gang accused of stealing billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money in VAT, benefit and identity frauds. The HMRC started looking into Hussain after that and established that he was linked to a senior Labour politician.
The Sunday Times claimed that Hussain and his associates used carousel fraud method - circulating mobile phones and generating millions of VAT. The fraudsters allegedly used 13,000 cell phones from one location to another to generate £4m in the form of VAT rebates. The cellphones were flown to Holland (Maastricht) from Dubai; in a DC8 jet. Over there, this consignment was loaded onto lorries which would head to Southall, West London. From there, the shipment was taken to Robin Hood airport, Doncaster. There, the consignment would be met by the same DC8 jet which would return to Dubai with the cell phones. The process was repeated over and over again -generating (black) money each time.
The gang members used companies they owned in Italy, France and Cyprus to cover up and to pretend to buy the stock each time it was brought to London. The money gained through these scams was transferred to accounts made with false names.
The HMRC obtained the warrant to conduct a raid on Hussain’s property and arrest him in 2006 but Hussain was informed beforehand and he left the country, moving to Dubai and then to Lahore. A trial conducted in 2012 sentenced Hussain and his carousel scam accomplices; Mohammed and Donnelly, to serve thirteen years.
Athif Sarwar was arrested in 2007 on charges of carousel money laundering but he was cleared on appeal.
He said: “I don’t see how this has anything to do with me. [Hussain] was a school friend of mine. The charges referred to in the nineties were ludicrous and were dropped. I have never had any business dealings with him.”