Adam Umerji, 33, and Abdullah Yusaf Allad, 32, both from Preston, were sentenced for their part in the £56.5m missing trader VAT and money laundering fraud.
The duo were originally charged in January 2009, but absconded to Dubai before they stood trial. Three others involved in the fraud who pleaded guilty before the trial were also jailed for 15 years at Liverpool Crown court last week.
Umerji, also known as Shafiq Patel, from St John’s Court, Broughton, was sentenced to 12 years in jail for the VAT fraud and five for money laundering. Allad, who last known address was Black Bull Lane, Preston, was also handed the same sentences for both crimes.
The gang operated a number of companies in the Preston area, trading in mobile phones. They submitted fraudulent VAT repayment claims to reclaim millions of pounds in VAT paid by them on the purchase of large quantities of stock.
They then transferred their criminal proceeds out of the UK to Dubai in a bid to conceal their illegal activities.
Mike O’Grady, assistant director for criminal investigations, HMRC, said: “Missing trader fraud is not merely a paper fraud, but often has links to other forms of criminal activity. In a blatant attack on our tax system these men stole a massive amount of money, lining their own pockets at the expense of the British taxpayer.”
His honour Judge Swift described the conspiracy in court today as “carefully and cleverly organised, in reality it was no more than a scam”.
He said that Allad and Umerji “were the main and controlling minds of the fraud” and “that the scale of offending goes far beyond normal sentencing guidelines for sentencing fraud cases.
Judge Swift added: “This was taxpayers’ money otherwise used for public services and amounts of this size severally damage the public purse.”
HMRC investigations discovered that £37m had been laundered through the network of companies operated by the gang and halted further payments in 2006. The gang had submitted VAT repayment claims for over £56.5m over a 10-month period.
Bench warrants were issued for the arrest of the two absconders and extradition proceedings have started. Those convicted in this fraud face future confiscation proceedings, which begin in November.