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Seven people found guilty of conspiring to cheat the revenue of £4.8m by abusing diplomatic status

08/12/2014

Seven individuals have today been found guilty of conspiracy to cheat the revenue. They bought tobacco in commercial quantities free of tax and duty due to the diplomatic status of four of the defendants.

The individuals purchased large quantities of tobacco at these tax-free rates, which were only permissible for goods that were for their own personal use or that of The Gambian High Commission, as it was at the time. It was accepted by the defendants during the trial that much of the tobacco was sold onto others. As such, VAT and excise duty should have been paid for these goods to the value of almost £4.8m.

All defendants but one (Ida Jeng Njie) were employed by The Gambian Diplomatic Mission, now an embassy in London.

Lisa Rose, specialist fraud prosecutor at the CPS, said: "The deception undertaken by these defendants involved a serious breach of the trust of their own government and of the British people. The scheme they designed and implemented not only resulted in the public purse being cheated of almost £4.8m in tax revenue, but it also abused their diplomatic status, taking advantage of the entire system of diplomatic privilege which is reliant on trust and responsibility.

"For all practical purposes, the scheme in operation was like running a business and the volume of tobacco was so large that to suggest it was for personal use, or for the use of the High Commission, is implausible.

"Fraud cases requiring diplomatic immunity to be waived are unusual. We would like to thank the Government of The Gambia for waiving diplomatic immunity in respect of the four defendants, who otherwise would have enjoyed the benefit of immunity in this case, and to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in securing those waivers. The public should have confidence that in cases where our tax systems have been exploited, all steps will be taken to ensure that diplomatic staff cannot commit offences and then hide behind diplomatic immunity."

Yusupha Bojang, Gaston Sambou, Georgina Gomez, Ebrima John, Veerahia Ramarajaha, Audrey Leeward and Hasaintu Noah were found guilty of conspiracy to cheat the revenue contrary to section 1 (1) of the Criminal Law Act 1977.

Ida Jeng Njie was found not guilty of conspiracy to cheat the revenue contrary to section 1 (1) of the Criminal Law Act 1977.

Veerahia Ramarajaha was found guilty of dealing/harbouring/concealing/carrying dutiable goods contrary to section 170 (1)(b) of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979.

Ends

Notes to Editors

  1. For media enquiries call the CPS Press Office on 020 3357 0906; Out of Hours Pager 07699 781 926
  2. The CPS consists of 13 Areas in total, each headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP). In addition, there are three national casework divisions: Specialist Fraud (formerly Central Fraud and Welfare, Rural & Health Divisions), Special Crime & Counter Terrorism and Organised Crime. CPS Direct is a 'virtual' 14th Area which provides charging decisions to all police forces and other investigators across England and Wales - it operates twenty-four hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
  3. At 31 March 2014 we employed a workforce of approximately 6237 staff (full time equivalent), including around 2226 prosecutors and 3629 caseworkers and administrators. Further information can be found on our website:  www.cps.gov.uk.
  4. The CPS, together with ACPO and media representatives, has developed a Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media. This sets out the type of prosecution material that will normally be released, or considered for release, together with the factors we will take into account when considering requests. Read the Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media.