Corby man jailed after £4.7m alcohol tax fraud

Cash siezed by customs officers
Cash siezed by customs officers

A Corby man has been jailed for his part in a £4.7m alcohol tax fraud.

Amandeep Singh, 32, of Warkton Way in the town, was sentenced to three years in prison, of which he will serve half before being liable to be deported.

He was arrested in October 2010 at an industrial unit in Lincolnshire and charged with conspiracy to defraud excise duty. He pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing at Birmingham Crown Court and was sentenced on Friday (May 31).

Singh and brothers Peter and Gurjit Singh Kunoor, from the West Midlands, were caught after a lorry loaded with 2,000 litres of spirits, labelled for export from the UK, was seized by HM Revenue and Customs officers at an industrial estate in Lincolnshire.

During searches of the brothers’ home in Smethwick and a storage unit in Bilston, Wolverhampton, HMRC officers seized thousands of litres of illicit alcohol, cash and records.

HMRC’s Bob Gaiger said: “These men attempted to disguise their illegal activities by destroying the export duty stamps and adding counterfeit labels. They then tried to sell the alcohol in the UK without paying any duty. They acted purely out of greed to line their own pockets, with no regard for the consequences to honest traders.

“HMRC is committed to protecting public finances from attacks by criminals and will not stand by and let these crooks rip off the law abiding public.”

The fraud unravelled when a Mercedes lorry registered to Peter Singh Kunoor, driven by Amandeep Singh, pulled into an industrial unit in Lincolnshire in October 2010. Unknown to the men, HMRC officers were watching the premises and arrested Singh. When the vehicle was searched, over 2,000 litres of vodka were found. The bottles were labelled for export but the gang planned to sell the alcohol in the UK without paying any duty.

When HMRC officers searched the Kunoor home in Smethwick, they discovered £45,000 in cash hidden in carrier bags in a bedroom, along with over 60 litres of spirits. Documents were also found relating to a storage unit in Bilston, where officers seized a further 6,761 litres of beer and 2,101 litres of wine, on which no duty had been paid. All the alcohol was seized.

Although under investigation, when a van driven by Peter Singh Kunoor was stopped on the Grove Road, Birmingham, in December 2010, HMRC officers found cases of whisky with counterfeit labels and the tax stamps scratched off.

No legitimate invoices were provided for any of the seized alcohol and the total amount of duty evaded is estimated as £4.7m.

Peter Singh Kunoor, 36, of Florence Road, Smethwick, was charged with conspiracy to evade excise duty and possession of criminal property. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy and was convicted after a trial for the second count. He was sentenced to five years in prison for the first offence and 18 months for the second, to run concurrently.

Gurjit Singh Kunoor, 32, also of Florence Road, Smethwick, was charged with conspiracy to evade excise duty. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 18 months in prison, suspended for two years.

A confiscation hearing is due to be held in October.

Anyone who suspects illegal alcohol is being stored or sold is asked to call the customs hotline on 0800 59 5000.