Directors at Aleef Garages are keen to put the past behind them following a court case involving three former directors and a massive tax fraud. Asif Patel (pictured far right with cousin Anis), said Bolton-based Aleef, which runs 39 forecourts, was now a totally different company looking forward to a bright future.

In a statement, the company said: "This is a line in the sand for us - what has happened

has happened and is in the past."

The case at Liverpool Crown Court saw seven ex-employees - including the former directors - jailed for their part in the tax fraud. In total, nine former employees pleaded guilty after an investigation by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). They had been charged with conspiring to cheat public revenue, relating to a period between May 1998 and April 2002.

HMRC said the charges centred on "fraudulent accounting related to franchise outlets, suppression of stock purchases and under declaration of takings at the newsagents’ shops to the diversion of funds and payments of tax-free undeclared wages".

Aleef is disputing the HMRC statement. Brothers Mustaq Hussain Patel, Iqbal Ahmed Patel and Mubarakali Ahmed Patel, were each jailed for three years and banned from being a director for ten years. A £5m confiscation order was issued, to be split between the three, and smaller confiscation orders were given to former staff. Asif said neither Aleef nor any entity associated with it had been subject to any HMRC charges and the actual tax evaded was £1.2m, plus interest and penalty.

The company stated: "Poor control and a lack of systems was instrumental in allowing staff to operate a business within a business, ultimately leaving the directors responsible for their actions." Aleef has since re-evaluated all its operations, leading to strict controls and rigorous practices. Asif runs Aleef along with fellow directors Anis and Abit Patel. Asif blamed "poor accounting advice and corner shop practices". for the problems, adding: "This all happened about six years ago and the company has more than doubled in size since then. It’s a totally different company."