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.
About Robert Lovell
Business and finance journalist