London, Aug 17: A Sikh family in central London pocketed millions of pounds by helping to run a decade-long operation to defraud the Royal Mail of 70 million pounds, a court has heard.
Parmjeet Sandhu, 56, and his nephew Balginder Sandhu, 46, who appeared for trial at Southwark Crown Court on Tuesday, were charged with conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation between 2008 and 2017.
The two worked under relative Narinder Sandhu, owner of Packpost International Ltd and “architect” of the fraud, who has already pleaded guilty, The Evening Standard reported, citing the prosecutors.
Along with Lakhwinder Sekhon -- not a family relation but appeared at the trial -- Parmjeet and Balginder were part of a scheme to under-declare mail posted through a network of logistics companies in Buckinghamshire and Berkshire, the court was told.
Parmjeet is the director of sister companies Tiger International Logistics Ltd and Worldwide Transport Express Ltd, and Balginder is the owner of Global Express Worldwide Ltd.
Prosecutor Ellis Sareen said, “thousands” of items were under-declared by manipulating docket spreadsheets, beginning in 2005 and lasting until 2017 when Royal Mail investigators uncovered discrepancies.
He said they “exploited and manipulated” a self-declaration system used by large postage firms and in some cases paid half of what they should have for the mail posted.
“In this case, we will be talking about literal tonnes of mail -- thousands of thousands of items,” Sareen told the court.
Sekhon is alleged to have helped Narinder find properties in which he could invest profits from the fraud.
Prosecutor Sareen told the court that Narinder lived with his family at Hadley Grange, a “multi-million-pound mansion” near Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire.
“Narinder Sandhu and his wife Jaswinder had a multi-million-pound home, a Bentley, a Rolls Royce and a pool house,” Sareen said, adding that his declared taxable income was about 1 million pounds per year towards the end of the period that the fraud was running.
Balginder’s declared income rose from 30,000 pounds for the 2008-09 tax year to 350,000 pounds in 2013-14, which he used to buy properties, the Evening Standard said quoting Sareen.
Sekhon had an income of almost 100,000 pounds a year on average in the tax years 2014-15 to 2016-17, the prosecutor said.
Royal Mail accountants analysed records after customers complained that competitors were offering unrealistic rates, and the fraud was discovered then.
Police warrants were issued in 2017, and the alleged fraudsters were arrested, the court heard.
“This has cost Royal Mail about 70 million pounds or a little more. (The defendants) have not pocketed 70 million pounds, but they have benefited,” Sareen told the court.
The Sandhu brothers and Sekhon deny the charges and the trial continues.