Estate agent jailed after conning £20m from victims
10 December 2010
A property fraudster, who conned victims out of £20 million after setting up as an estate agent and managing to avoid police for 10 years, has finally been jailed.
Dixit Shah, 49, set up over 200 companies and by the time he was arrested had 36 buy-to-let properties. He acquired the string of properties having submitted false mortgage applications, lying about incomes and stealing other people's identities.
Shah, who used the money to fund a career in Bollywood, has now been jailed for five and a half years and at least one of accomplices, Gaurav Mathur, is still on the run.
Shah set up the estate agency, Hilton Properties, in north London, which was used to provide rental information required by lenders. The fraudster was able to set up an estate agent despite being wanted by the police and having previously been struck-off as a solicitor.
Lenders that were conned include Kensington Mortgages, which lent £238,000 in March 2007 on a property in south-east London. The property was almost £7,000 in arrears at the end of October last year.
In this application, accomplice Mathur, 38, claimed to be self-employed and have an income of between £93,000 and £95,000.
The conman claimed victims across the UK and Asia, with firms of solicitors, high street banks and foreign students all being targeted - but his links to the criminal underworld meant many were afraid to speak out against him.
However, following a six-month investigation by the City of London Police, Shah was arrested outside a Harrow gym, after two patrol officers spotted a Jaguar linked to him nearby.
Det Supt Bob Wishart, from the City of London Police Economic Crime Directorate, said: "Over the last ten years, Shah has left a trail of destruction stretching from here to India, with pension fund holders, high street banks, solicitors and foreign students all suffering at his hands.
"Unfortunately for him his criminal successes were not mirrored by his forays into the world of Bollywood, where his delusion led him to lose millions.
"By bringing Shah to justice we have curtailed his career in films, and much more importantly removed a ruthless and calculated fraudster from the streets."
Shah's unscrupulous business practices first came to light in 1999 when the Solicitors' Regulatory Authority (SRA) uncovered a £13 million deficit in the joint account of a group of solicitors' firms that he had set up.
Shah had put himself in charge of the collective pension funds while working from home and by the time his partners realised the accounts had been emptied and the financial records deleted, he had fled to India.
His crime spree continued, from 2000 to 2006, as he ran major credit card frauds across India, Pakistan and Dubai and set up a bogus company offering students the chance to travel to the UK to learn English.
When back in London he started stealing the identities of British and Indian nationals, some of which he used to apply for fraudulent mortgages from high street banks.
His portfolio of properties, worth £9 million, included new-build flats and a ten-bedroom mansion in Watford.
By Shelley DeBere