MYSTERY surrounds the fate of one of Lancashire’s most wanted criminals who has been on the run for two years, claiming he is unable to return to the UK from Dubai.
Fugitive Adam Umerji stills stands to serve a lengthy jail term for his part in Lancashire’s biggest ever fraud.
He has been named in HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) top 10 most wanted list over a £64m fraud he was convicted of in 2011.
Customs chiefs released his photograph online in the hope the public can help track Umerji and other wanted criminals down, saying they had intelligence of his movements in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
But Umerji claims he cannot come back to the UK to face justice because the authorities in Dubai are refusing to return his passport, which was seized as part of a separate civil dispute over a business deal.
The Evening Post can confirm his lawyers are in the process of serving papers to the Court of Appeal as he continues his bid to clear his name.
A spokesman for the Court of Appeal in London confirmed Umerji, also known as Shafiq Patel, and prosecutors had been advised to serve several papers, but said no date has been set for the hearing.
Umerji’s lawyer, Hassan Khan, of The Khan Partnership, was not available for comment.
Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, said: “Our message is clear; tax fraud and evasion is illegal and absolutely unacceptable. The Government has invested hundreds of millions of pounds in HMRC’s enforcement activities to enable them to pursue tax cheats like these relentlessly.”
Umerji, 35, formerly of St John’s Court, Broughton, near Preston, was convicted in his absence at Liverpool Crown Court to 12 years for VAT fraud and money laundering in September 2011.
His crimes were estimated to have cost the UK taxpayer around £64m.
His brother Sajid Muhammed Patel, of Ferndale, Fulwood, Wai Fong Yeung, also known as Katie Yeung, of York Avenue, Preston, and her partner Mohammed Mehtajee, of Garstang Road, Fulwood, all pleaded guilty to conspiring to cheat the public revenue.
Umerji and co-defendant Abdullah Yusuf Allad were both absent from the hearing.
Mark Hendrick, Preston Lab MP, said: “I’m sure the authorities are pulling the stops out but without an extradition order, short of him being kidnapped by security services there, it is going to be difficult to get him back. I’m angry that he is not in the country to face justice.”
The usual procedure for extradition to the UK is to send suspects to the Dubai Public Prosecutor.
The UK and UAE signed an extradition treaty in 2008.
The treaty allows extradition to be requested for any offence which would result in a maximum penalty of at least 12 months in both the UK and the UAE.