By Chris Lang
Prosecutors in Frankfurt am Main announced this week that they are seeking the arrest of a 46-year-old British businessman charged with running a criminal gang that pocketed €125 million via a carbon credit VAT carousel fraud.
The prosecutors said the man “ensured his identity was hidden, used various aliases and was known within the group as ‘Batman’”.
The prosecutors didn’t name the suspect for privacy reasons, according to an Associated Press report.
He always wears a tailored suit and turban, lives in London in one of the most elegant and expensive parts of the city. And he posed in photos with celebrities such as footballer Mesut Özil, pop star Rihanna and even the Queen. Peter Virdee Singh.
Handelsblatt reports that according to the investigators, Virdee was one of the main organisers of the VAT carousel fraud. He provided millions of euros to buy the carbon credits. Through a company he controls, registered in the Seychelles, he fed the carbon credits into the chains of companies that traded the carbon credits across borders. And he was in charge of a Frankfurt-based company that led the carousel.
Deutsche Bank was part of the carousel. The district court in Frankfurt has sentenced six ex-Deutsche Bank employees in recent years.
Virdee claims his innocence
In January 2017, following the arrest, Virdee put out a statement on his website, in which he denied the allegations:
Prof. Virdee categorically denies these allegations. He has never been involved in carbon trading let alone in any kind of fraud. While he is happy to co-operate with the authorities he intends to defend himself fully against these allegations and the attempts to extradite him to Germany….
It appears that the only basis for the making of any allegations against Prof Virdee is from a statement given by a convicted fraudster, who entered into some form of plea bargain in return for implicating other people, including Prof Virdee, in the alleged fraud.
In November 2016 a court in Germany found Mohsin Salya guilty of carbon credit VAT fraud. He was jailed for three years and three months.
Virdee and corruption in the Caribbean
From 31 January 2015 to 26 January 2017, the German authorities tapped Virdee’s phone as part of their investigations into the suspected VAT fraud.
In 2018, some of the contents of those phone calls became public in a hearing involving Virdee at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. The phone calls reveal Virdee talking to a business partner, Dieter Trutschler, about payments to high level Caribbean politicians.
The conversations are pretty revealing. Watches, cars, shoes, and money, offered to high level politicians and their families in Antigua and Barbuda, and St Kitts and Nevis, where one of Virdee’s companies was hoping for new contracts.
No, Brexit won’t save Batman
Before Brexit, the UK took part in about 40 European Union measures aimed at supporting and enhancing internal security and judicial cooperation among member states.
One of these, the 2003 Extradition Act, provides the rules for extraditions from the UK to other EU countries. The European Arrest Warrant applies in all EU countries.
After Brexit, the Handelsblatt argues, Britain no longer applies European Arrest Warrants against its citizens.
But on 1 February 2020 (the day after Brexit) Business Insider reported a Home Office spokesperson as saying that, “The European Arrest Warrant continues to apply during the Implementation Period.”
The Implementation Period runs until 31 December 2020. That’s surely enough time to extradite Batman.