Forecourt Trader top 10 independent retailer, Aleef Garages, is under investigation for a large-scale tax fraud. However company director, Anis Patel, said it was business as usual for the forecourt and newsagents chain, and trading was strong. The company operates 29 forecourts and 26 CTNs in the north west.

Three directors and five other employees are alleged to have conspired to cheat the Inland Revenue out of tax. They are also alleged to have failed to declare untaxed profits. They have all been remanded on bail until January 11.

A statement from Aleef’s auditors said the company’s growth in turnover, from £43m in 2002 to £85m this year, demonstrated its commitment to the business and the fact that the investigation had had "no major impact on normal trading".