A PETROL station owner is waking up behind bars after evading £200,000 in tax by selling hundreds of thousands of litres of illegal diesel to unsuspecting motorists.
Nawaz Jan Virmani, 52, was running Shadsworth Road Service Station when he was caught by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) with 2,843 litres of illegal laundered diesel stored at his filling station in June 2013.
Yesterday, Nawaz’s brother Cllr Yusuf Jan Virmani, who owned the building, revealed he had to stand aside from his responsibilities on Blackburn with Darwen Council’s executive board for three months, while he was investigated by tax officials.
The 60-year-old former mayor, whose responsibilities for housing, neighbourhoods and customer services include trading standards, described the investigation into his family as ‘traumatic and horrible’, as his brother was jailed for 16 months at Preston Crown Court.
The Audley ward Labour councillor said: “It has been very sad for the whole family.
“My brother has been a very silly man.
“It’s been a traumatic and horrible period for us all.
“I was investigated myself by HMRC as I owned the premises but they cleared me as I had nothing to do with the day to day running of the business.
“I had to take a back seat from my council responsibilities for three months while this took place.
“I have to be cleaner than clean.
“It has been very embarrassing.
“He may be my brother but he broke the law of the land as has to pay the penalty.
“The court has decided he should go to prison and I agree with that.”
The ‘laundered’ red or green diesel, intended for agricultural or construction vehicles at lower duty rate, can damage car fuel pumps because of the chemical treatment needed to remove the dye from the fuel, the court heard.
An investigation into Nawaz’s business records revealed fake invoices for 212,450 litres of fuel and no legitimate paperwork for a further 126,791 litres.
The former petrol station boss, of Shadsworth Road, Blackburn now faces confiscation proceedings by HMRC to reclaim criminal profits.
Sandra Smith, the assistant director of HMRC’s Fraud Investigation Service, said: “Nawaz Jan Virmani duped his customers into thinking that they were buying legitimate fuel, but instead he was selling laundered diesel without paying excise duty to HMRC.
“Fuel fraud costs millions of pounds in lost duty every year, meaning the public lose out on vital funds for essential services, and it creates an uneven playing field for honest businesses.
“Anyone with information about this type of activity should contact the Customs’ Hotline on 0800 59 5000.”
Nawaz Jan Virmani pleaded guilty to one count of being knowingly involved in the fraudulent evasion of excise duty on 4 January 2016.
He admitted that he had falsified invoices for the fuel to evade UK Excise Duty, conceal the existence of the laundered fuel.
He pleaded guilty to £198,237 tax evasion in relation to the fuel offence.
A separate charge of evading £46,901 in VAT will remain on his file.
HMRC’s Road Fuel Testing Unit conducted tests of the fuel for sale at the service station and identified 2,843 litres of laundered UK marked rebated gas oil and laundered UK rebated kerosene.
Laundered fuel is red (or green) diesel, which has been filtered through chemicals or acids to remove the Government marker.
In 2014, while inquiries were under way Cllr Yusuf Jan Virmani, was replaced by his deputy Cllr Arshid Mahmood took over his main responsibilities.