Accountant jailed for £400k VAT scam

An accountant who tried to avoid going to jail by forging a medical report from a Cypriot hospital has been jailed for a £400,000 VAT scam

Rakesh Sidhpara claimed more that 100 fraudulent repayments through hijacked and fake businesses.

In September 2018, Sidhpara tried to delay his trial by sending the court a forged medical report from Cyprus which claimed he could not attend because of kidney stones. However, a HMRC officer raised concerns about the stamp and signature on the medical report and it was later proved to be fake.

Sidhpara returned to the UK during the three-week trial and admitted the three-year VAT fraud. He was jailed for five-and-a-half years in December 2018. He also admitted attempting to pervert the course of justice on 28 February and was sentenced to an extra year in prison.

Sidhpara had the proceeds of the VAT fraud paid into various bank accounts, which included some belonging to his wife who helped him launder more than £80,000.

The money was used to lease Mercedes cars and to buy a large detached home for him and his wife, Ritu Sidhpara, who was also jailed for 23 months after admitting money laundering offences. The couple also enjoyed more than a dozen holidays between 2010 and 2013, which included trips to Las Vegas, Mexico, India, Dubai and even a VIP studio tour of the CNN headquarters in Atlanta.

Tanveer Akram also received cash from the fake VAT returns and passed the proceeds of crime back to Sidhpara. He was convicted of VAT fraud during the same trial at Birmingham Crown Court and was also jailed two-and-a-half years.

The trio, led by Sidhpara, claimed £407,587.56 between January 2010 and July 2013 through several companies, some did not exist while others were small taxi, recruitment and car wash firms.

Sidhpara used the bank accounts of some traders and hijacked others so payments were diverted into his own accounts without the knowledge of the businesses.

Sidhpara and his wife left the UK before the trial started. His wife returned for their trial on 17 September and admitted money laundering offences but he stayed in Cyprus and then emailed the forged medical report to the judge.

During sentencing, at Birmingham Crown Court, Judge Richard Bond QC, described Rakesh Sidhpara as ‘thoroughly dishonest’ and ‘a conman’ who was the ‘controlling mind of the fraud’.

During sentencing of his wife, he added: ‘Ritu Sidhpara returned to the UK in September. She sat in the dock knowing that a completely false medical report had been handed over.

‘Rakesh Sidhpara almost got away with it, but enquiries revealed that the report was utterly false from start to finish. Photos from the defendants Facebook page demonstrate that Ritu Sidhpara was, from 2010 until 2013, living a lifestyle that was far beyond that of an ordinary human being.

‘As well as the holidays there was a lavish engagement party in 2011 and in 2012 there was a lavish Indian wedding ceremony. This would have cost tens of thousands of pounds over those years. The couple also bought a property together in Sutton Coldfield’s Wheatmoor Road, which cost £338,000. I am told there was a £100,000 mortgage and £238,000 was paid in cash.

‘This was a money laundering arrangement and Ritu Sidhpara was aware of it from the outset. She entered into this with her eyes wide open.’

HMRC will now seek to recover the proceeds of the trio’s crimes.

Report by Amy Austin

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