A MILLIONAIRE gang master who was last week jailed for a massive £2.5million tax fraud was just a few dozen votes away from being a Labour councillor in Hounslow, we can reveal.
Mazhar Raja, of Hounslow Road, Hanworth, cheated the Inland Revenue by supplying low-paid immigrant workers to Heathrow and Gatwick. He would then cream off the tax and national insurance payments deducted from their wages.
Raja used the cash to build a luxury pad in Pakistan, buy a fleet of luxury cars and put two of his four children through private school. It emerged this week the 50- year-old ran as a Labour candidate in Hounslow Heath two years ago, losing out by just 49 votes to John Connelly, of the Hounslow Independent Alliance.
The revelation will come as a huge embarrassment for the party which is today fighting to save Mayor Ken Livingstone’s job. Mr Connelly said: "The Labour Party owes me a debt of gratitude for getting elected and saving them the embarrassment of a by-election." Colin Ellar, who was Labour leader when Raja ran for office, said he came across as 'polite, charming and helpful'. It was not known as we went to press if Raja is still a party member.
Neither Labour HQ or the Brentford and Isleworth branch were available for comment. Raja was last Friday sentenced to six years for each of nine counts of cheating, and a total of four years for false accounting, all to run concurrently, at Southwark Crown Court.
His accountant, Kandiah Sivandaraja, 72, of Great West Road, Hounslow, was cleared of the same charges. The court heard how Raja secretly controlled a string of recruitment firms supplying cleaners and factory workers to companies in and around the airports.
He also ran several 'phoenix' businesses, which would open, close and then open again under a different name.
Many of the low-paid workers he employed had no national insurance number or tax code and had been 'deceived' by their boss. Raja, who continued defrauding the Inland Revenue even while under investigation, told jurors he had built his business empire from scratch using his 'entrepreneurial spirit'.
But they unanimously found him guilty last Thursday after hearing how he cheated the Inland Revenue out of £2.5million, pocketing at least £750,000 himself.
Sentencing Raja, Judge Geoffrey Rivlin QC described him as a 'clever and immensely resourceful man' who amassed a 'veritable fortune' by telling 'endless lies'.