A company director and a cash and carry worker have been jailed for more than 11 years for laundering £25 million through a series of shell companies posing as legitimate alcohol businesses.

Following an HMRC investigation, Avtar Singh Mann, 50, Mandeep Singh Dhillon, 40 and Santokh Singh Bharj, 54, were found guilty in July 2021 of conspiracy to convert criminal property after a four-month trial at Southwark Crown Court.

Santokh Singh Bharj, 54, was sentenced to seven years and three months in prison.

Mr Mann and Mr Dhillon were the directors of two cash and carry warehouses in Barking, East London. Mr Mann ran Glenn & Co (Essex) Ltd in River Road and employed  Mr Bharj, while Mr Dhillon ran Gardner Shaw C&C Ltd in Thames Road.

The court heard that Mr Mann and Mr Bharj moved millions of pounds through the bank accounts of shell companies set up to launder cash.

The money that was being laundered was believed to derive from the sale of non-duty paid alcohol.

Julie Marsh, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “We uncovered a complex and sophisticated money-laundering scheme, where cash was being moved through a number of shell companies. Money laundering is not a victimless crime. Laundered cash funds other serious crimes that bring harm and misery to communities.

Wads of cash were found in Mr Dhillon’s home.

“HMRC will investigate anyone suspected of being involved in money laundering and after conviction, we’ll pursue the money they owe. We encourage anyone with information about tax fraud or money laundering to report it online or call the Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”

Investigators revealed that the shell companies, which claimed to be legitimate alcohol trading businesses, had no facilities to store alcohol and were fronted by people with no experience of the trade.

Internet Protocol (IP) addresses used to control the shell companies bank accounts were traced to several locations, including Mr Mann’s Glenn & Co (Essex) Ltd premises, and Mr Bharj and Mr Dhillon’s home addresses.

Mandeep Singh Dhillon, 40, was sentenced to four years in jail.

During searches, evidence of the scam, including account books and bank slips, was found at Mr Bharj’s home and at Gardner Shaw C&C, where £300,000 was discovered.

More than £198,000 and 26,000 in Euros was found at Mann’s home in Loughton, and £329,000 at Mr Dhillon’s family home in Chislehurst. All the money found during the searches has been seized and forfeiture is being sought by HMRC.

Mr Bharj and Mr Dhillon were sentenced to seven years and three months and four years in jail, respectively, at Southwark Crown Court on 6 October 2021.

Mann will be sentenced at the same court on 1 November 2021.

Two other men, Thinh Van Dinh, 38, of London, and Inderjit Paul, 45, of Dudley, were directors of two of the shell companies. Van Dinh pleaded guilty to entering a money laundering arrangement and Paul pleaded guilty to conspiracy to convert criminal property. Both received suspended sentences at earlier hearings.

HMRC has also launched a confiscation proceeding to reclaim criminal money and assets.