A fugitive fraudster from West Watford has been landed with a £5 million bill for his part in a £176 million mobile phone tax scam.
Zafar Chishti, who is on the run from HM Revenue and Customs, faces a further seven years in jail if he cannot pay the money. This would be added to on an 11-year sentence he was given in 2011 for his part in the sophisticated fraud.
The 34-year-old, formerly of St James Road, is currently on HMRC’s most wanted list.
Yesterday he and three other accomplices were ordered to pay a total £35 million or face more time in prison after being jailed for a total of 50 years.
The order comes after Chishti and three other men were convicted of submitting fake VAT repayment claims on mobile phones.
The gang claimed to have sold more than four million mobile phones but were caught after an investigation by HMRC, which revealed many of the phones were fictitious.
The gang claimed to have sold mobile phones worth around £1.7 billion, but in many cases the phones did not exist - including 250,000 handsets which hadn’t even been launched in the UK.
HMRC said they also faked 5,700 business documents in an attempt to make their trade seem legitimate.
The scam was rumbled after investigators reviewed VAT repayment claims submitted by companies linked to the conspiracy and stopped £67 million being paid to them.
Chishti, formerly of Pakistan, fled before the trial and is now believed to be in Dubai.
Robert Alder, assistant director, criminal investigation, HMRC, said: "This major investigation uncovered the severe abuse of our tax system by a ruthless criminal gang who made a huge profit from the fraud. They have already lost their freedom and now their illegal wealth will be taken away as well. These confiscation orders will rid these criminals of all their illicit gains so they can be reclaimed for public finances."
The other three men convicted for the scam were Dilawar Ravjani, from Middlesex, who was jailed for 17 years for his part in a leading a 15-strong criminal gang.
The gang also included Tamraz Riaz, from Wakefield, who was sentenced to 13 years; Rajesh Gathani, from Middlesex, who was sentenced to eight years.