A Cross-Border Scam while Suspect Remains in Dubai

A British Citizen Finances Al-Qaeda and Taliban with European Funds

Mohammed komani

In 1995, a person who seemed terrified anonymously reported information to the Lancashire Police in the northwest of England. ARIJ obtained confidential documents leaked by the British Police about financial transactions which later came to be known as “the fraud of the century.” The informant provided information on companies that were evading taxes in Lancashire. This opened the door to track organized networks that committed fraud with the value-added tax (VAT) in England and Europe.

Among the people investigated was a British man born in Pakistan called Imran Yakub Ahmed, who lives in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, and who was investigated by British authorities starting in 1998, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London (The Bureau).

European authorities had been trying to track the network for more than two decades. An investigation conducted with more than 63 journalists in Europe by Corrective, the German investigative organization, showed that the total sum incurred by the treasury of member states in the European Union amounted to 50 billion Euros per year.

What is the story, who is involved and where does this money go?

One of the names that appeared in the fraud investigations was that of a British citizen of Pakistani origins called Imran Yakub Ahmed. Initially, Imran was questioned by the British authorities in 1998 due to a suspected relationship with the members of a network involved in fraud operations and evasion of the value-added tax.

Imran’s name appeared in leaked documents obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists ( ICIJ logo ) ,and these were shared with ARIJ and a large number of publishers around the world within a project labeled as the Pandora Papers. The leaks mark the biggest cross-border journalistic collaboration project in history and include millions of documents from lawyers’ offices about tax havens. They also uncover assets, secret transactions and the hidden fortunes of the rich, including more than 130 billionaires, more than 30 world leaders, a number of fugitives or convicted people alongside sports stars, judges, tax officials and counterintelligence agencies.

The leaked documents show that Imran owns shares in four offshore companies under the following names: Diamond Estates Investments, Ltd.; Primary Property Investments, Ltd.; IMCO Holding, Ltd. and a fourth one called World Base Trading, Ltd.

IMCO Holdings Ltd. was founded in the Jebel Ali Free Zone on February 4, 2007 by registry No. (2931). In November 2010, Anisah Ahmad resigned from the management of World Base Trading, Ltd., and IMCO reported the transfer of 50,000 shares she owned in World Base Trading Ltd. to Imran.

In the same year, Imran moved 50,000 shares from each one of his companies of Primary Property Investments, Ltd. and Diamond Estates Investments, Ltd. to IMCO Holdings, Ltd.

Imran and the Funding of Extremist Groups

On August 5, 2021, hundreds of the relatives of injured American soldiers brought case No. (CV-04400-21) against Deutsche Bank under the Anti-Terrorism Act in the United States District Court of the Eastern District of New York. The bank had permitted financial operations for people affiliated with Al-Qaeda and the Taliban and thus contributed to financing the killing and wounding of hundreds of American soldiers in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Based on the information available to the prosecution, Imran was accused of being an agent of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban and that he founded a cell for collecting funds. He had received specialized training by these organizations to execute a value-added tax (VAT) fraud scheme. The plan was to use global financial institutions to convert fraudulently obtained Euros to American dollars and to eventually send the money to Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates to support attacks against Americans in Afghanistan.

According to court documents, Deutsche Bank helped Imran carry out a massive value-added tax fraud scheme and to obtain more than one billion Euros. Millions of these were converted into American dollars through Deutsche Bank to support attacks against Americans in Afghanistan from the mid-2000s up to 2010.

The Deutsche Bank transfers took place at its branches in New York, Frankfurt and London.

Court documents reveal that American forces obtained documents on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border proving the involvement of Imran and others in financing Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

After years of investigations and trials, Deutsche Bank paid €145 million, that is around $165 million of the stolen value-added taxes to the German government, and a Deutsche Bank employee was imprisoned for his involvement in Imran’s value-added tax fraud.

The funds collected through this fraud from the mid-2000s to 2010 by Imran are estimated at more than 1.15 billion Euros.

Imran - on the left

In Pursuit of Imran in Europe

While Imran was in the process of transferring shares, he traveled from Dubai to Bolton in North West England. He booked a hotel suite at the Bolton Wanderers Football Stadium, which was later raided by the Manchester Police. He was arrested on suspicion of conducting money laundering operations, and four cell phones and a memory card were confiscated. However, he was released without charges, and he returned to Dubai.

In the same year, the German police raided dozens of places, including Imran’s Company in the aftermath of an investigation into fraud operations between 2003-2005 on value-added taxes amounting to 200 million euros.

In September 2014, the Italian police announced that they were searching for Imran in connection with fraud. Documents leaked from the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Milan, Italy show that the Italian Public Prosecutor accused Imran of defrauding Italy by 1.15 billion Euros in value-added taxes. He believes that Imran used funds and investments in Dubai for money laundering purposes and that the money was reinvested in the Middle East as a cover for financing terrorist organizations.

In 2017, an Italian court convicted him of conspiring to steal the value-added taxes and demanded that the United Arab Emirates extradite him, but the UAE refused to do so.

How is fraud done? / How does a VAT carousel work?

At the time this investigation was published, we had not received any response from the law offices of Imran or Deutsche Bank.