A Blackburn filling station owner has been jailed for evading almost £200,000 in tax by selling hundreds of thousands of litres of illegal diesel to unsuspecting motorists.

Nawaz Jan Virmani, 52, trading as Shadsworth Road Service Station, was caught by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officers with 2,843 litres of illegal laundered diesel stored at his filling station in June 2013.

An investigation into his business records revealed fake invoices for 212,450 litres of fuel and no legitimate paperwork for a further 126,791 litres.

At Preston Crown Court Virmani admitted that he had falsified invoices for the fuel to evade UK Excise Duty and conceal the existence of the laundered fuel. He pleaded guilty to £198,237 tax evasion in relation to the fuel offence. A separate charge of evading £46,901 in VAT will remain on his file.

On Tuesday 9 February Virmani was jailed for 16 months. Confiscation proceedings are now under way to reclaim his criminal profits.

Sandra Smith, assistant director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “Virmani duped his customers into thinking that they were buying legitimate fuel, but instead he was selling laundered diesel without paying excise duty to HMRC.

“Fuel fraud costs millions of pounds in lost duty every year, meaning the public lose out on vital funds for essential services, and it creates an uneven playing field for honest businesses. Anyone with information about this type of activity should contact the Customs’ Hotline on 0800 595000.”