Ex-magistrate stripped of £4.1m after fraud

A former magistrate who was jailed for a £38,000 fraud was ordered to give up his assets worth £4.1 million at a confiscation hearing today.

Accountant Nirmal Sharma, 51, of Langley Road, Slough, Berkshire, was told he must pay the cash within six months or face eight years in prison under tough legislation designed to strip criminals of their "ill-gotten gains".

Sharma has already served a jail term after he was found guilty at Winchester Crown Court in 2007 of seven counts of deception, one count of false accounting and one charge of intending to pervert the course of justice.

He was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment for the theft offences and nine months imprisonment for attempting to pervert the course of justice.

His conviction prompted a lengthy investigation under the Criminal Justice Act 1988 by the Thames Valley Police Economic Crime Unit (ECU) and all his assets were declared to be criminal and liable for confiscation last year.

The hearing today at Southampton Crown Court was told that Sharma, who owned several companies including an accountancy firm and a travel agents, had never co-operated with the investigation into his criminal assets.

The married father-of-three, who sat at Slough Magistrates' Court, was not in court to hear the ruling.

He was a prominent member of the Slough community until he used his accounting business to steal from his friends Naveed Ghafoor and Devinder Chahal, who were clients from 1996 until 2003.

He embezzled cash from them because they trusted him to bill them for the correct amounts of tax and VAT.

But Sharma pretended they owed more and used the extra sums from them to pay other tax and VAT bills for other companies, or the money was paid to his brother.

The investigation by police to find his assets was complicated by the substantial movement of funds involving millions of pounds that were transferred offshore and then moved through different jurisdictions such as Guernsey, Singapore and India and into stocks and shares, as well as commercial properties.

The complex investigation traced his affairs back six years from his arrest in 2003 to 1997 to try and unravel his finances and crimes.

In December last year, Judge Tom Longbotham ruled that all of the assets are his criminal property, despite the fact that they are mostly held in the names of members of Sharma's immediate family.

The assets that must now be sold are: property worth £1.23 million, including his family home, shares and funds totalling £1.6 million and, vehicles worth £15,000 with the rest of the sum of £4.1 million made up of cash in bank accounts from numerous sources.

He has six months to dispose of the property and hand over £1,253,609 and three months to release £2,847,730, or go to prison in default.

This is one of the largest orders obtained by Thames Valley Police to date, and brings the total amount of assets recovered by the ECU in 2009 to £5.2 million.

In making the order, Judge Longbotham said: "The defendant is man who has an enormous mastery of his financial affairs."

He also imposed a Financial Reporting Order under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, forcing him to declare income and assets to the authorities for the next ten years.

"In my judgement the risk of Mr Sharma committing another offence is sufficiently high to make the order," the judge said.

Speaking after the case, financial investigator Phillip Croxson said: "The offences themselves gave an assumption that any property held by the defendant or transferred to the defendant are the proceeds of crime unless it could be determined otherwise, so the burden of proof fell to him.

"Mr Sharma has not co-operated with the Proceedings.

"This is an excellent result and Sharma will have to pay a considerable amount of the money he obtained through his criminality.

"He finally chose not to give live evidence in the confiscation proceedings, and this was taken into account by the judge when delivering his ruling.

"Criminals need to be aware that the Economic Crime Unit will continue to bring asset recovery proceedings against them to strip them of their ill-gotten gains, no matter how long it takes to bring about a successful conclusion.

"This is harsh and very powerful legislation, as demonstrated by the fact the proven offences in this case had a monetary value of less than £40,000, and compensation has already been paid to the victims."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins win the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor