Published: 00:02, 22 April 2015
Two men from Gravesham have been jailed for their roles in a fraud worth more than £23 million.
Narinder Chada, 61, and Gurmail Dosanjh, 46, were found guilty of conspiracy to cheat the public purse after they set up companies to buy carbon credits.
The men sold them on the open market but kept the VAT they received for themselves, instead of passing it on to the government, depriving taxpayers of £11.7 million.
Chada, of The Russetts, Meopham, and Dosanjh, of Singlewell Road, Gravesend, were jailed for seven and eight years respectively.
They were sentenced on Monday at Southwark Crown Court along with father-and-son Daniel Andrew Barrs and Daniel Barrs from Surrey following a two-month trial.
The duo facilitated money laundering for this fraud and a previous case dealt with by HMRC in 2012. The total amount laundered was in excess of £23 million.
Barrs, 65, from New Place Gardens in Lingfield was given three seven year sentences for facilitating money laundering while his 29-year-old son was given three sentences of three years for the same offence.
The jail terms will run concurrently.
Detective Constable Phil Kershaw, from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said: "The group traded in carbon credits, which allow companies to legitimately produce more carbon dioxide than they would otherwise be permitted to.
"They are an ideal commodity for this type of fraud because they do not exist in a physical sense.
"The offenders used companies to buy credits from overseas and sell them in the UK.
"They collected the proceeds of their sales and then dishonestly and deliberately abused the VAT system. When the offences took place in 2009, the rate of VAT was 15 per cent.
"The more carbon credits they sold, the more VAT they could charge and keep.
"Invoices and paperwork were required to convince HMRC that the trade was genuine, but otherwise the fraud was relatively straightforward.
"In all, the offenders charged their customers £11.7 million in VAT and moved the money between several companies to try and cover their tracks.
"We followed the trail of laundered cash from the UK to Europe, the Middle East and as far as New Zealand and Australia.
"Barrs and Barrs facilitated the money laundering by setting up three offshore corporate structures and provided money laundering platforms within overseas bank accounts.
"This was a very organised operation but we were determined to piece together enough evidence to bring those responsible to justice."
Officers from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate will use legislation under the Proceeds of Crime Act to recoup as much money for the taxpayer as possible.
DC Kershaw added: "This was not a victim-less crime. By depriving the Government of millions of pounds of VAT, the offenders were in effect stealing from all UK taxpayers.
"The money should have been spent on schools, hospitals and other services.
"I hope this case serves as a warning to anyone trying to commit tax fraud that the authorities, whether Kent Police or HMRC, will catch up with you."