A NORTHWOOD fraudster jailed for a massive VAT con has had his record £92.3million confiscation order slashed - in the hope it might actually get paid.
Shakeel Ahmad, 39, of Astons Road, together with accomplice Syed Ahmed, 39, from Iver Heath, were key players in the huge 'missing trader' VAT fraud based around a company in Uxbridge.
The pair ran MST Associates (UK) Ltd in High Street, which formed a 'buffer' in the sophisticated scam.
But both were convicted of conspiracy to cheat HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in March 2007 as part of one of the most complex tax rebate scams in history.
In July 2010 at Leicester Crown Court, they were each ordered to pay £92,333,667 or spend another 10 years behind bars.
After they failed to pay and the extra jail time was activated, their cases reached the Court of Appeal. On March 2, an appeal judge reduced the confiscation orders to £12,662,822 each.
Lord Justice Hooper said: "It seems to us that a confiscation order which, due to its magnitude, exceeds by far the likely assets of the defendant, may operate as a disincentive to co-operate."
Both men said they had no realisable assets, but Lord Hooper said that was "frankly ludicrous" and ordered them to pay.
Their plot involved importing computer components, mainly from Ireland, VAT-free. The goods were sold at a lower rate, with VAT added, through a chain of companies that issued false invoices and disappeared without ever paying the tax due.
Once the goods had been sold on a number of times, each time without the mandatory VAT payments being made, they would be exported back to the EU through firms such as MST Associates - and the fake paper trail was used to claim back the VAT from HMRC.
The rebates served as profit, with the scam involving Ahmad raking in £12.5million. The gang of 21 fraudsters - all now behind bars - laundered their gains through various offshore bank accounts in secretive tax havens such as Jersey and Liechtenstein.