Birmingham Crown Court PA-23901802Birmingham Crown Court PA-23901802


Fraudsters used bogus car dealerships to carry out elaborate £800,000 VAT scam

  • Fraudsters jailed after being found guilty in trial without a jury
  • Gang set up fake car dealerships to make fraudulent VAT repayment claims
  • Jury in case was discharged following reports of tampering

Time 8:49 am, May 14, 2024

A gang of fraudsters set up bogus car dealerships as part of an elaborate VAT scam to con people out of hundreds of thousands of pounds, a court has heard.

Shahid Mohammad, Zahid Mohammed, Mohammed Maroof, Adnan Sharif, Mohsan Hussain and Usman Sharif set up a whopping 90 fake companies to try and steal more than £800,000 via car finance and VAT fraud.

The group were convicted by a judge in March for cheating HMRC out of the money after jurors in their trial were discharged, amid reports of jury tampering.

The Court of Appeal ruled in January that the judge could continue the trial alone as delaying proceedings would cause a ‘huge inconvenience’.

All six men have now been sentenced Birmingham Crown Court, with five receiving suspended sentences and Shahid Mohammad being jailed for six years.

HMRC said that the gang used 91 fake companies to submit tax claims and VAT repayments worth around £470,000 between January 2015 and November 2016.

The fraudsters set up a fake recruitment firm to steal identities and list people as directors of bogus car dealerships without their knowledge, using the addresses of vacant premises across the Midlands for their fake dealerships.

Personal information stolen through the recruitment firm was used to record made-up vehicle sales and complete car finance agreements with lenders, with money then transferred and withdrawn in cash.

The firms were used to make fraudulent VAT repayment claims, with further payments worth around £380,000 blocked by HMRC.

Car Dealer has reported extensively on the rise of fake dealership scams over recent years, with con artists often cloning real life dealerships to scam unsuspecting customers.

A trial began at Birmingham Crown Court on September 4 last year, with the jury beginning deliberations on November 13.

However, it later emerged that two weeks earlier, one juror had allegedly been approached and offered a lift by someone outside court who suggested the defendants were their friends.

The next day, the same juror was allegedly approached by a different person who suggested one defendant was their cousin and they were concerned about them ‘going down’.

The juror did not tell anyone about the alleged incidents until deliberations had begun and the whole jury discharged on November 17.

Legally, a judge can continue a trial without a jury if there is evidence that tampering has taken or will take place, provided it is still fair to the defendants.

Barristers for Shahid Mohammad, Usman Sharif and Adnan Sharif took the case to the Court of Appeal, arguing their clients could not receive a fair trial, but their claim was dismissed by three senior judges.

The six men were sentenced by Judge Andrew Smith on Thursday (May 9) at Birmingham Crown Court. A seventh man, Nathan Downes, will be sentenced on May 20.

Shahid Mohammad was jailed on Thursday (HMRC/PA)

Following the sentencing, Mark Robinson, operational lead of the Fraud Investigation Service at HMRC, said: ‘Shahid Mohammad and his criminal gang caused utter misery for dozens of innocent people whose stolen details were used in this fraud.

‘A huge amount of effort and planning went into committing these offences, which stole much-needed money from our public services.

‘We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to pursue the small minority who commit these types of crimes and we urge anyone with information about tax evasion to report it to HMRC online.’

Shahid Mohammad, 31, Zahid Mohammad, 30, and 28-year-old Maroof, all of Derby, were convicted of conspiracy to cheat the public revenue, with Shahid Mohammad also found guilty of two counts of fraud.

Usman Sharif, 41 and Adnan Sharif, 43, of Birmingham, were also convicted of conspiracy to cheat the public revenue, while Hussain, 25, also of Birmingham, was found guilty of money laundering.

Jack Williams's avatar

Jack joined the Car Dealer team in 2021 as a staff writer. He previously worked as a national newspaper journalist for BNPS Press Agency. He has provided news and motoring stories for a number of national publications including The Sun, The Times and The Daily Mirror.

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