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Lancashire Fraudster Behind $189 Million Fake Clothing Empire Convicted

The mastermind of a fake designer clothing scam has been convicted of one of the UK's biggest carousel tax frauds.
Cover Image Source: Plaza de Castilla jail | Getty Images | Photo by Matias Nieto
Cover Image Source: Plaza de Castilla jail | Getty Images | Photo by Matias Nieto

Arif Patel, a 55-year-old sock manufacturer from Preston, Lancashire, has been convicted of orchestrating one of the largest carousel tax frauds in the UK. Arif, along with his criminal gang, attempted to defraud £97 million ($123 million) through VAT repayment claims on false exports of textiles and mobile phones, while also engaging in the import and sale of counterfeit clothing. 

In this photo illustration British pound coins can be seen next to American Dollar notes | Getty Images | Photo by Christopher Furlong
Getty Images | Photo by Christopher Furlong

Arif's criminal empire was centered around his Preston-based company, Faisaltex Ltd. From this hub, he managed the fraudulent import and export business. The operation, which began in 2004, involved bulk import of fake designer clothing, with containers intercepted at ports across the UK.

The goods, falsely claimed to be high-value textiles and mobile phones, formed the basis of the carousel fraud, a complex scheme designed to reclaim VAT through a fabricated paper trail of sales and exports.

"While presenting himself as a genuine and reputable businessman, Arif Patel in fact used stolen taxpayers' cash to line his own pockets," said Sam Mackenzie, Lancashire Police's Assistant Chief Constable.

Image Source: Blog Preston
Image Source: Blog Preston

Carousel fraud, a sophisticated tax evasion method, relies on creating a deceptive paper trail of purported sales and exports to genuine buyers. In Arif's case, the gang fraudulently claimed £97 million ($123 million) on false exports, but HMRC managed to halt £64 million ($80 million) of these claims. The scam exploited the VAT repayment system, diverting funds that should have contributed to public services like the NHS.

Furthermore, Arif's criminal activities extended beyond UK borders. Trips to Dubai allowed him to meet Mohamed Jaffar Ali, a key accomplice who facilitated money laundering through bank accounts in Dubai and offshore. The accused also ventured into China and Turkey to establish deals with manufacturers of counterfeit clothing. The proceeds from the criminal enterprise were then laundered by Ali through Freezone companies and UAE bank accounts.

Richard Las, director of HMRC's fraud investigation service, said: "Arif Patel lived a lavish lifestyle at the expense of the law-abiding majority. We have more than £78 million of the gang's UK assets restrained and have begun the process to recover all those proceeds of crime."

Image Source: Blog Preston
Image Source: Blog Preston

The ill-gotten gains were not only used to fund a luxurious lifestyle but also to purchase properties in Preston and London through offshore bank accounts. Arif's criminal enterprise relied on a network of lieutenants across the UK, including professional enablers such as chartered accountants Anil Hindocha and Yogesh Patel.

A general view of the J. Crew Special Selections Store at Ron Herman Melrose on November 9, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Amy Graves/WireImage)
A general view of the J. Crew Special Selections Store. Photo by Amy Graves WireImage

Arif was convicted of various crimes, including false accounting, conspiracy to defraud the public revenue, involvement in selling counterfeit goods, and money laundering, following a 14-week trial at Chester Crown Court. However, he was convicted in absentia, having remained in Dubai throughout the trial.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is now pursuing confiscation proceedings to prevent him and his co-conspirators from enjoying the benefits of their criminal enterprise. Convictions for Arif's brothers, Munaf Umarji Patel and Faisal Patel are pending as they remain on Lancashire Police's wanted list.