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Leader of £1.8m alcohol duty fraud gang jailed

Published:  03 October, 2011

The leader of a gang of six criminals involved in stealing a £1.8 million in excise duty has was jailed last week following a complex investigation by HMRC.

The gang, led by Paramjit "Pete" Bagri, from Holywell, North Wales, bought alcohol from legitimate bonded warehouses under the guise of shipping them abroad. Shipments were then illegally diverted inside the UK, selling on the drink without paying duty.

Mike O'Grady, assistant director of Criminal Investigation for HMRC, said: "This was a calculated attempt to defraud the public purse and to personally profit from the illegal trade. HMRC is committed to protecting public finances from attacks by organised crime, and the extra £917 million invested in HMRC will help us step up this fight."

Gang members Richard "Gerry" Ellis, 52, and Mohammed Ajmal Tariq, 51, are both currently in prison following convictions in July 2011 for their parts in the fraud. Ellis, a former pub licensee, ran a logistics company which collected the consignments of alcohol. Tariq ran Direct Plus Distribution - he was linked to at least six alcohol diversions, defrauding £600,000 from the public purse.

On sentencing, His Honour Judge Steiger said: "This was an ingenious and complex fraud and I am satisfied that Bagri was top of the tree."

Bagri and three men, Nadim Iqbal, Mohammed Vaqas and Baldeep Singh Tahkar, pleaded guilty before the start of their trial. Richard Gerrard Ellis and Mohammed Tariq were found guilty by a jury at Manchester Crown Court in June 2011.

Confiscation proceedings are now underway - the evaded UK duty alone was given as over £1,799,448 in court.

Anyone with information on this type of crime should contact the Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000.