A PETROL station owner from Osterley has escaped jail for his part in a £2million fuel fraud.
Charanjeet Singh Sra, of Syon Lane, Osterley, was given a one-year suspended sentence and ordered to do 250 hours of community service. The 56-year-old was also told to repay £95,000 of his ill-gotten gains.
He was one of seven people sentenced last Friday (February 26) at Leeds Crown Court for their involvement in illegally importing mixed oil and stealing petrol and diesel from one of the UK's largest oil refineries.
HM Revenue & Customs, whose investigators uncovered the operation, estimates it cost taxpayers more than £2m in lost excise duty and VAT.
Sra sold thousands of pounds worth of this cocktail of illicit and stolen fuel at four service stations in east London, Essex and Huntingdon to unwitting customers paying full price.
HMRC's Peter Hollier said: "This case is one of largest fuel fraud operations ever uncovered in England in recent years.
"Not only were these criminals out to defraud the government by attempting to avoid paying duty and VAT but they were preying on honest members of the public.
"Motorists were paying the full price for sub-standard or stolen fuel at one of the many filling stations supplied with illegal fuel by the gang.
"Given the cocktails of fuel supplied, motorists were very much the victims of this fraud.
"The sentences passed down today reflect the seriousness of the crime and should serve as a deterrent to anyone tempted to become involved in this criminal trade."
Sra admitted conspiracy to fraudulently evade excise duty on hydrocarbon oils. HMRC officers have already seized nearly £35,000 from his home and two of his stations.
At the centre of the ring was a West Yorkshire-based company called Euro Commodities, which imported the oil before shipping it to petrol stations, commercial fleets and haulage companies across the UK.
Director Derek Little was given two years and eight months behind bars, while co-director Paul Kelly is due to be sentenced at a later date.