Most wanted tax fraudster pleads for own arrest

A Bristol businessman involved in a £156m VAT fraud wants to return to the UK and face his prison sentence after nearly 10 years on the run.

Former Knowle resident Nasser Ahmed told the Bristol Post over the phone from his Middle East hideout that he was ready to come home after fleeing the country during his tax trial, serve his time and launch an appeal against a hefty confiscation order.

In February 2005 Ahmed was found guilty of an £800,000 VAT fraud, which has since been increased to £156m after a confiscation hearing and investigation into his finances.

Ahmed fled the Bristol Crown Court trial just minutes before a jury found him guilty of defrauding HMRC out of more than £800,000. In his absence he was sentenced to six years in jail and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Despite being on the Revenue's ‘most wanted’ list, Ahmed claims that months after first contacting the authorities with his whereabouts, he has been ignored.

Ahmed, who is currently prevented from returning to the UK without assistance as he no longer holds a passport, told the Post: “Life on the run isn't as glamorous as it seems” and his lawyers have called HMRC a “disgrace” for the failure to pounce on their client.

He also claims he has contacted the British Embassy, Foreign Office and Treasury hotlines, but says his pleas to face justice continue to be ignored.

An HMRC spokesperson said: “HMRC has no objection to Nassar Ahmed returning to the UK but we have not been notified of any firm arrangements from either him or his solicitor in terms of his return.

“We did speak with a solicitor representing the family earlier this year and said that we understood that Mr Ahmed was located in Pakistan.”

Ahmed is alleged to have made £156m in four years pocketing output VAT on sales of computer chips and mobile telephones by a firm operating from offices on North Street in Bedminster, South Bristol.

AccountingWEB reported at the time how Nasser had been importing computer chips from Luxembourg without paying VAT, and subsequently selling the chips in the UK, without declaring the output VAT charged.

He had set up a network of companies from his Bedminster base with partner Urfan Ahmed, who has admitted one charge of cheating and one of furnishing a false document. He was sentenced to 21 months in prison, suspended for two years.

In August 2005 the Revenue applied at Gloucester Crown Court for a confiscation order for a small proportion of his alleged assets.

Crown prosecutors had difficulty tracing the funds, and of the estimated millions, HMRC only applied for, and were granted a confiscation order of £5.1m, which included his house, a cash stash of £52,000 and three cars.

Comments
ShirleyM's picture

I guess he's run out of money    9 thanks

ShirleyM | | Permalink

...or needs health treatment on the NHS. He must be pretty desperate to volunteer for prison in order to return to the UK.

Still, we'll give him free board & lodging, and benefits for his family while he serves his time. We'll probably pay his legal fees as well. If he has no money to repay his ill gotten gains I would be tempted to leave him where he is.

I am too cynical.  Maybe his conscience has (belatedly) caught up with him and he really does want to pay penance.

davidwinch's picture

Knotty legal points    1 thanks

davidwinch | | Permalink

There appear to be some knotty legal issues here.

This gentleman apparently absconded shortly before the jury returned a guilty verdict & therefore presumably took no part in the confiscation proceedings which would have followed some months later.

His absence will have hampered both prosecution & defence in dealing with the confiscation proceedings.  He may consider that the findings against him were unjust or not in accordance with relevant law.

He might even wish to argue that the Crown Court should not, in the circumstances, have made any confiscation order at all when it did.

But none of these issues can be properly dealt with until he returns to the UK.  Interesting!

David

carnmores's picture

def breach of his human rights

carnmores | | Permalink

not being allowed to go on holiday

davidwinch's picture

@carnmores    3 thanks

davidwinch | | Permalink

I think you would 'like' the recent court decision concerning a gentleman who was effing & jeffing when police arrived following a phone call alleging that the gentleman had punched his girlfriend.  A police officer stood blocking the gentleman in a doorway and asked him to calm down otherwise he would be arrested.  The gentleman - perfectly reasonably you may think in response to this police behaviour - pushed and bit the police officer & was then arrested.

He naturally enough sued the officer for false imprisonment in that he had blocked him in the doorway (although the officer did not touch him).

On appeal to the Court of Appeal he was awarded £5 damages against the Metropolitan Police for unlawful imprisonment in the doorway.

(Note:  If the police officer had arrested the gentleman first - for example on suspicion of assaulting his girlfriend - and then asked him to calm down & blocked him in the doorway that would not have been false imprisonment & so the gentleman would have had no basis for compensation.  The problem was that the officer blocked him in the doorway without first arresting him.)

**********************

But the confiscation case is a bit more complex.  Confiscation law in Part 2 of PoCA 2002 was written to deal with (i) a defendant who is present throughout his trial & ensuing confiscation proceedings, or (ii) a defendant who absconds after he is convicted, or (iii) a defendant who absconds before trial & so is neither acquitted nor convicted.

But it wasn't expressly written to deal with a situation where a defendant absconds shortly before his conviction but is nevertheless convicted.

A recent Court of Appeal decision R v Okedare [2014] EWCA Crim 1173 dealt with this situation (and what the Crown Court should do in these circumstances) - but may be further appealed to the Supreme Court.  I am guessing Mr Ahmed's lawyers are following that one with interest . . .

David

stepurhan's picture

Fairness?    5 thanks

stepurhan | | Permalink

Presumably the normal appeal would be out of time. I cannot help thinking that, if this is the case, then Mr Ahmed has only himself to blame. He is the one who chose to put himself in a position where he was unable to contest or appeal the confiscation order in good time. I see no reason why he should be allowed to contest it now. Sadly, I suspect the law doesn't work that way.

As for HMRC not listening to his appeals to be brought to justice, why should they. He requires help to enter the country, which would presumably cost. He is planning to contest a confiscation order. What precise incentive is there for bringing him back? More importantly, given there is no return expected from bringing him back, is there any obligation to do so? If he isn't enjoying life on the run, that is his problem.

Why?

sosleepy | | Permalink

If they don't want him back in the country badly enough to make an effort to get him back then why put him on their most wanted list?

mrme89's picture

Why didn't he just do the

mrme89 | | Permalink

Why didn't he just do the original sentence.

 

For the sums involved, 6 years (out in 3 or less) seems like a cracking deal.

ShirleyM's picture

@Mrme89    1 thanks

ShirleyM | | Permalink

Maybe he wanted to spend the money himself and then do the time, rather than lose it under confiscation and still do the time.

Lawyers fees    1 thanks

ireallyshouldkn... | | Permalink

Presumably his lawyers are getting paid.

Given they know about the large amount of money he has stolen (given his conviction) how do they get around the money laundering regulations?

Presumably they are be definition being paid out of money aquired from the fraud, or at least a pot of money largely aquired from the fraud (given its hard to accumulate that much cash by normal means).

Or is OK to pay your lawyers with money you have stolen?

 

davidwinch's picture

Money laundering points    2 thanks

davidwinch | | Permalink

There are a couple of relevant money laundering points raised above.

Firstly one does not commit a money laundering offence by accepting payment for legitimate goods provided or work done. There is a specific exemption within s329 POCA 2002 (which deals with acquiring criminal property) to cover this. Of course this applies equally to accountants whose fees are paid by clients who are evading taxes.

Secondly where a person approaches a lawyer or accountant seeking legal advice (as distinct from compliance services, such as the routine completion of a tax return or a routine conveyance of land / buildings) then there is an exemption from the obligation to report a suspicion. That exemption is written into s330 POCA 2002 (as amended).

Of course in this case we do not know if the lawyers are being paid at all - and if so by whom (possibly The Legal Aid Agency).
David

Amazing    2 thanks

The Black Knight | | Permalink

He doesn't even hold a British passport.

Why would you let him back in?

Wouldn't even let a criminal come here on holiday. Some countries have restrictions on criminals visiting them.

We've got rid of him. Got some of the money he stole.

Let him stay in Pakistan.

Perhaps the lawyers didn't explain the consequences of him absconding when he hasn't got a UK passport. Wonder if he could sue them?

 

Legal aid - Can anyone get this wherever situated in the world? -

 

davidwinch's picture

Legal aid    1 thanks

davidwinch | | Permalink

I am presuming this gentleman obtained legal aid for the original proceedings & so my guess is that he would be entitled to legal aid for their continuation.  He would be unable to pay for any legal representation himself because either he has no money or any money which he does have will have been frozen or seized by the authorities.  He cannot be tried without having the opportunity to instruct a lawyer - hence legal aid . . .

David

Call it a day and leave him    1 thanks

175alison | | Permalink

Call it a day and leave him where he is, probably wants NHS treatment and has run out of money, free housing and benefits.

carnmores's picture

this is where legal aid is all wrong

carnmores | | Permalink

he should never have had it in the first place and he should certainly not get it now, his human rights have not been breached but loads of other peoples have.

davidwinch's picture

Strictly speaking    1 thanks

davidwinch | | Permalink

Every person's human rights include the right to a fair and public hearing at which he can defend himself against a criminal charge either in person or by a legal representative. If he is unable to pay for a legal representative he has a right to be provided with one, free of charge, where the interests of justice require it.

So his human rights would be breached if he were not given legal aid for a defence lawyer if he were unable to pay for one himself.

I hope you agree that this is a crucial and fundamental human right which we should strive to preserve in Britain.

David

Most Certainly    2 thanks

The Black Knight | | Permalink

davidwinch wrote:
Every person's human rights include the right to a fair and public hearing at which he can defend himself against a criminal charge either in person or by a legal representative. If he is unable to pay for a legal representative he has a right to be provided with one, free of charge, where the interests of justice require it. So his human rights would be breached if he were not given legal aid for a defence lawyer if he were unable to pay for one himself. I hope you agree that this is a crucial and fundamental human right which we should strive to preserve in Britain. David

 

Most Certainly but this should be funded by Pakistan not the UK.

Unfortunately we are concerned with criminals human rights from another country while ours are eroded.

He has had a fair trial which he didn't agree with and absconded. We should have a choice whether he is allowed back again.

As In your behaviour and values are unacceptable, you're barred.

Why do we even let these criminals in in the first place the results are pretty obvious.

I am fed up with funding the worlds policemen when culturally these people do not subscribe to any real values of honesty or justice but are happy for honour/religious  killings,

Its all a a bit warped in my opinion.

 

carnmores's picture

David    1 thanks

carnmores | | Permalink

Unsurprisingly I disagree, did he have funds at the time of the original trial were they sequestered or perhaps not declared
He's been on the run for years what's he been living on. Legal aid should only be given once career criminals should pay for their own defence or defend themselves

davidwinch's picture

@carnmores

davidwinch | | Permalink

We will have to agree to differ on this one.

As I expect you are aware (currently) under English law the state accepts an obligation to provide (free of charge) a legal representative to act for any defendant in criminal proceedings who is unable to pay for a legal representative and wishes to have one.

That, in my view, is entirely as it should be.

(Bear in mind that having a lawyer appointed to act for the defendant helps speed up court processes and will, I suggest, reduce the number of unwinnable defences which might otherwise be run by defendants acting in person.  In much the same way that a wise accountant acting for a taxpayer offers benefits to HMRC, so a wise lawyer acting for a defendant offers benefits for the criminal courts.)

David