Thursday, June 28, 2007

Britain: The son of millionaire Labour MP Mohammad Sarwar has begun a three-year jail term for laundering nearly £850,000

Daily Mail:

Athif Sarwar was given a three year sentence

Athif Sarwar, 28, was sentenced at the High Court in Glasgow after being convicted last month of processing VAT frauds worth £845,137.

Judge Lord Carloway told the married father of two that his type of crime did "considerable" damage to the UK Treasury and any punishment required a deterrent element.

Sarwar, from Mearnskirk, on the outskirts of Glasgow, had denied laundering the money from his wholesale business more than four years ago but was found guilty after a six-week trial in Glasgow.

The court heard that he, or his business, was in line to benefit from a 10 per cent commission for processing the sum, described in court as criminal property.

Smartly-dressed Sarwar - whose father and extended family were in court - bowed his head as the verdict was read out.

Lord Carloway told him: "It's clear from the evidence which I heard that the type of fraud involved is one which is prevalent throughout the UK and does considerable damage to Treasury finances.

"For that reason the court must do what it reasonably can to discourage those involved in these frauds.

"The deliberate nature of the offence and the amount involved means that only a custodial sentence can be considered."

Several members of the businessman's family started crying as the three-year term was read out.

Sarwar was convicted of laundering the money from six companies into United Wholesale (Scotland) Ltd, at Maxwell Road in Glasgow, between February 24 and April 25 2003.

He was United Wholesale's managing director.

The case followed an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), which found that although £845,137 was paid into United Wholesale's account, there was no evidence of large-scale purchases made from the company.

HMRC said the largest average daily transaction during the three-month period in 2003 was £2,000.

The agency said subsequent inquiries showed that the £845,137 came mainly from mobile phone companies that dealt with missing traders, or firms that disappear owing VAT.

Outside the court, father-of-four Mohammad Sarwar - who last week announced he would be stepping down as MP for Glasgow Central at the next election - gave an impassioned defence of his son, saying that an appeal would be launched.

The 54-year-old said: "I believe that my son is innocent. There's no shred of evidence against him.

"We are going to launch an appeal, I am certain about that.

"He will be exonerated - justice will win and prejudice will fail."

Athif Sarwar's lawyer, Michael Jones QC, said the family had received death and kidnap threats linked to his MP father's involvement in bringing three notorious killers to justice.

In 2005, Mohammad Sarwar was instrumental in arranging the extradition of the murderers of Glasgow teenager Kriss Donald from Pakistan to Britain.

Mr Jones said that as a result of the fraud case and the death threats, Athif Sarwar had suffered depression, weight loss and panic attacks and had to take tranquillisers.

He also had to have extra security measures installed at his house, the QC said.

Sarwar has been married for five years and has two sons, aged three and one.

The court also heard that he has helped raise tens of thousands of pounds for charitable causes in Pakistan and Glasgow.

The MP's son was accused along with Mansoor Khan, of Giffnock, East Renfrewshire, who was assistant manager of United Wholesale (Scotland) Ltd.

Khan, 43, was found not guilty of the money laundering charges.

Anne-Marie Gordon, assistant director of Investigation for HMRC Scotland, said Sarwar's sentence sent out a warning to fraudsters.

She said: "Sarwar pretended that the money going in and out of the business had come from a customer who wanted to buy large amounts of cigarettes.

"In reality, he was using his cash and carry as a front to launder the proceeds of VAT fraud built around the stolen identities of innocent or fictitious individuals and companies."

MP's son given jail for cash scam

Mohammed Sarwar and his sons


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