A MAJOR crime boss accused of laundering £48.3million of dirty money is heading back to jail. Michael Voudouri, 45, sent a fortune stolen by VAT fraud firm Q-Tech Distribution out of the country.
Last week, he admitted filtering £10.3million into bank accounts in Cyprus, Greece and Switzerland. Incredibly, he managed to hide more than £1million of dirty money while he was in jail for tax fraud. Voudouri was originally accused of laundering the entire sum of £48.3million stolen by Q-Tech. But prosecutors accepted a guilty plea after the figure was reduced to £10.3million. The Crown also agreed to drop charges against Voudouri’s wife Chrystalla, 46, and father-in-law Nicos Savva, 76. A source said: “If they’d stood trial, they may have all ended up behind bars. But Voudouri was unwilling to see his wife and her elderly dad doing time.
“The Crown got a result with his conviction but the amount he has been convicted of laundering is a fraction of the £50million he was originally accused with.” Voudouri’s lavish lifestyle in Bridge of Allan, Stirlingshire, was exposed by the Sunday Mail in 2004 when he was jailed for four years for VAT fraud. At the time, HM Revenue & Customs investigators suspected that his gang made £30million from the scam. But he only owned up to a £3million fraud. At the High Court in Glasgow last week, Voudouri pled guilty to sending Q-Tech’s stolen cash through numerous European banks. Glasgow-based Q-Tech was run by Mohammad Sarfraz Sattar, 42, from Newlands. Last year, a proceeds of crime case resulted in Sattar and the defunct firm agreeing to hand over £1.3million of dirty money. In 2003, his brother Mohammed Nawaz Sattar was ordered to pay back £400,000 amid claims of a massive VAT fraud. The true scale of Q-Tech’s
theft from the taxman was only revealed in the new case against Voudouri. Computer component distributors Q-Tech made a fortune by claiming back VAT on bogus Europe-wide business transactions. Such scams are known as carousel fraud. They involve a firm buying goods, then exporting them and claiming back the VAT. But the company that sold them in the first place go out of business without paying the taxman. Often, the goods don’t actually exist. At its peak in 2006, carousel fraud cheated UK taxpayers out of £8.4billion. Police said Britain’s biggest, most prolific VAT gangs operated out of the southside of Glasgow. Voudouri, who has a string of gangland associates and friends, has been a key figure in Scotland’s carousel fraud scene.
Not only were his gang making a fortune from the scams but he also helped Sattar’s mob shift cash overseas – and out of reach of proceeds of crime laws. He used a complex web of companies in Scotland and places including the British Virgin Islands and Delaware in the US to hide the money. One firm used by Voudouri was Labarito, a now defunct designer clothes shop in Falkirk. Only now can it be revealed that Voudouri transferred Q-Tech’s dirty millions out of Scotland while he was behind bars in 2004. Last week, he admitted a separate charge of hiding £1.28million of dirty cash while he was in Glenochil jail, Clackmannanshire. A source at HM Revenue & Customs said: “Most people still do not appreciate the huge financial scale of these VAT scams. “A bank robber might make £10,000, a drug dealer £100,000, but these guys were making tens of millions.” Voudouri’s key underworld associates are Edinburgh heroin dealer George “Dode” Buchanan, 55, and self-styled legal expert James McDonald, 65, from Stirling. Father-of-three Voudouri infuriated senior Crown Office figures by waging a high-profile battle against a proceeds of crime case against him. He appeared on BBC’s flagship Panorama show in 2009 to brag that he was still living in a £2million mansion in Bridge of Allan. He also claimed that he had blown his stolen millions on “having a good life”. Last year, Voudouri was declared bankrupt. But the authorities believe his vast fortune is hidden abroad. Voudouri – who used to try to impress lapdancers by using £50 notes to light his cigars – will be sentenced for last week’s conviction at a later date. He was unavailable for comment yesterday.