Jailed: Sudbury Hill ice-cream magnate who funded lavish lifestyle through £1.6m VAT fraud

Mohammed Shareef has been jailed for eight years

Mohammed Shareef has been jailed for eight years - Credit: Archant

An ice-cream businessman from Sudbury Hill who carried out a £1.6million VAT fiddle which he blamed on his accountants in India has been jailed.

Mohammed Shareef, of Chasewood Park, funded a lavish lifestyle that included a rented property in a gated development in Harrow-on-the-Hill and a top of the range leased Mercedes through his scam.

The 43-year-old also used his ill-gotten gains to pay for his children’s private school fees and to prop up his failing franchises of Baskin Robbins ice cream shops in London.

Southwark Crown Court heard he used false paperwork to make fraudulent VAT repayment claims for six years.

He claimed the repayments for shops that had already closed, had yet to open, or did not exist at all.

When he was questioned by investigators from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) he pointed the finger at his company’s accounts team in India, who submitted VAT returns on his behalf.

However the fake documents were found on his personal computer and investigators were able to prove he was the author of files containing false invoices, bank statements and VAT summaries.

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The faked bank statements contained spelling mistakes, duplicate transactions and glaring errors such as transactions dated 2011 in a statement for 2012.

Yesterday he was convicted of cheating the public revenue contrary to Common Law and was jailed for eight years.

Jennie Granger, director general for enforcement and compliance at HMRC, said: “Shareef stole a huge amount of money to fund a wealthy lifestyle that he couldn’t afford, and tried to blame the fraud on others.

“We will not tolerate tax fraud and will thoroughly investigate those who steal money that should be funding public services. Our job doesn’t finish when someone is jailed and we will now start confiscation proceedings to reclaim the money he stole.”