Convictions secured after seven month trial

Published on 27/09/2019

Michael Forster and Duncan Milne secure convictions against five defendants in multi-million pound VAT and Excise Duty Fraud and associated Fraudulent Trading prosecution.

Instructed by the CPS Specialist Fraud Division and West Sussex County Council, the case focused on activities at Pulborough Petrol Station, West Sussex and the adulteration of road fuels with kerosene and later bio-diesel.

Kerosene was purchased from a Registered Dealer in Controlled Oils, Rye Oils between 2011 and 2013 and sold through the Pulborough Petrol Station pumps and in bulk to unsuspecting customers.  A former director of Rye Oils Ltd [Christopher Reardon] sold millions of litres of kerosene knowing it was to be misused and falsified invoices to conceal the transactions.

When kerosene was discovered by HMRC at the petrol station in 2013, those operating the petrol station, Darren and Dean Chapman, approached a bio-diesel supplier and began purchasing bio-diesel which was then mixed with road diesel in place of the kerosene. Former directors of Edible Oil Direct Ltd [Peter O’Hara and Carole O’Hara] sold bio-diesel to the Chapman brothers between 2013 and 2014 without paying Excise Duty and VAT.

In that period, the Chapman brothers crudely mixed bio-diesel with road diesel and sold it through the Pulborough Petrol Station pumps and in bulk to unsuspecting customers. Despite Trading Standards warnings, they failed to inform customers of the nature of the product sold and this resulted in 1000s customers being misled and put at risk of mechanical damage. Between 2013 and 2014, at least £71,000.00 of damage was caused to customer vehicles.

The defendants were sentenced this week following a 7-month trial at Wood Green Crown Court. Sentences ranged from 8 years 2 months to 2 years.