AN EAST LONDON car mechanic who set up two firms ‘selling’ alcohol as a front for a £5.3 million money laundering scam has been jailed for six years.
Gurdeep Singh Haire, 29, of Plaistow, was sole director of the Drinks Heritage Company and the Trade Heritage Company and ‘ran’ them from the bedroom of his terrace home in Brock Road between March 2013 and December 2014.
He was caught committing the fraud when a surveillance camera showed him paying more than £100,000 into a busy High Street bank. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) investigations revealed that it was just one of many deposits and that Haire had sent £5.3 million to foreign bank accounts in the Cayman Islands, Dubai, Hong Kong, China and Poland.
He was arrested on suspicion of evading VAT, cheating the public revenue and money laundering. But when HMRC investigators searched his bedroom they found that, in reality, his businesses never traded and their sole function was money laundering. When questioned about the money, he offered no explanation as to where it came from.
Blackfriars Crown Court was told the money probably came from criminals and that Haire was paid £20,000 for his part in moving the cash abroad through his bank accounts.
He answered ‘no comment’ to all questions when interviewed under arrest at Forest Gate police station on December 9, 2014 and took the same approach when interviewed a second time on July 14, 2015. He denied three separate charges of money laundering on his initial appearances in court but changed his plea to guilty two months before his trial.
Haire was jailed for six years yesterday and banned from being a company director for nine years.
Sentencing him, Judge John Hillen said of his crime: ‘It was carefully planned by you and others who must have been involved and who you are yet to identify.
‘In the modern globalised financial world, money laundering offences will be punished severely to deter criminals acting in the way you did.’
After the case, Richard Mayer, assistant director of HMRC’s Financial Investigation Service, said: ‘Haire thought that by setting up fake businesses and funnelling cash through his bank accounts he would somehow stay under HMRC’s radar. He was wrong and it was foolish of him to believe he could get away with committing a large fraud.
‘HMRC is devoting more resources than ever to tracking down fraudsters. It is vital that we are able to collect the right amount of tax to keep the UK’s public services running, and we urge anyone with information about people who may be involved in tax fraud to report it online or call our hotline on 0800 788 887.’
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