Three Preston men were involved in a multi-million pound carbon credit theft that shut down the European carbon trading market for a week, costing millions to the economy, a court heard.
Father-of-three Hanif Patel, 53, of Elgin Street, Deepdale, who was the director of a PPI firm, appeared at Preston Crown Court with Mohammed Hanif Patel, 53, of St Thomas’s Road and a third Preston man. A probe was launched by the National Crime Agency into the theft of 475,000 EU carbon dioxide emissions allowances (EUAs) worth £6m from the Czech Republic’s carbon registry OTE, on January 18, 2011 – following a hoax bomb scare at their base.
It formed part of a wider theft of a total of 1.25 million carbon credits - a form of permit allowing organisations to emit a tonne of carbon dioxide, which can be traded between firms.
The theft was discovered on January 19, 2011, but thieves had already sold the credits on.
Judge Graham Knowles QC was told Hanif Patel and Mohammed Hanif Patel were involved in registering a firm in order to handle the stolen goods and commit fraud.
They admitted encouraging or assisting an offence, along with former petrol station worker Ayub Ibrahim, 60, of Lees Hall Road, Dewsbury.
Preston Crown Court heard between January 2010 and March 2011, the defendants established Huntingdon SP Zoo, a Polish company registered on the National Emmissions Registry in Lichtenstein, which later received stolen credits.
Mohammmed Patel, whose wife is a dinner lady, was charged with a similar offence relating to another firm, Segel Zoo, along with Ayub Ibrahim and father-of-two Ruman Patel, 31, formerly of Brook Street, Preston, but now of Addison Street, Blackburn.
Prosecuting at a sentence hearing for the four defendants, Cameron Brown described how the credits were stolen within a two hour period after a cyber attack and hoax bomb threat.
They were then transferred to the two companies.
The Euros were later converted to dollars and then sold on to legitimate firms around the world including China, India Hong Kong and Dubai.
None of the money has been recovered.
Defending Ruman Patel, Russell Davies said he was a “dupe”, not an innocent dupe, but a dupe nevertheless.
He explained Patel was approached in 2010, when he owed a £30,000 debt as a result of a failed business venture.
He had received serious threats of violence. His financial position – together with the threats he received – made him vulnerable.
The court heard although he played an important role in a substantial international fraud, it was obvious that he could not have known what he was lending his assistance to.
Patel registered his company in his own name, providing accurate details of his identity that were verified by a local solicitor.
Mr Davies said: “It was inevitable that as soon as the fraud was detected, he would be identified and prosecuted for fraud.”
The sentencing will take place at Burnley Crown Court on September 23.