A PRECIOUS metal trader, who was part of a gang that conned the taxman out of £4.5million in VAT, has been ordered to pay back more than £450,000.

Mohammed Shabir Karim, of Billinge End Road, Blackburn, was jailed for seven years in 2012 after being found guilty of conspiracy to defraud the Inland Revenue following an eight-week trial.

The 42-year-old was charged alongside Imran Bhatti, of Brooklands Terrace, Kamran Bhatti, of Churchill Road, both Blackburn, and Raymond Bowden, of Barrington Road, Altrincham.

They were sent to prison for a total of 17 years after it emerged they had bought precious metal VAT-free, had it processed to reduce its purity, and then brought to the UK where it was sold to a legitimate customer in London with 17.5 per cent VAT added to the price.

Karim was ordered to pay back £452,015 within six months at a proceeds of crime act hearing at Liverpool Crown Court yesterday or serve a further three years and eight months in prison.

Speaking after the judgement, Adrian Farley, assistant director of criminal investigation at HMRC, said: “Mohammed Shabir Karim had no hesitation in cheating his way to a comfortable lifestyle by deliberately evading his tax responsibilities.

“Similarly, HMRC has no hesitation in pursuing Karim both for his crime and for the proceeds of that crime. This is a clear warning to anyone tempted to commit tax fraud, we will pursue you for your crimes, and then we will pursue you for your illicit gains.”