Five year ban after public inquiry hears of convictions for fraud and cannabis smuggling

Traffic commissioner Nick Denton

An operator has been disqualified after he failed to inform the traffic commissioner about his 12-year prison sentence for supplying cannabis.
Marcus Hughes also lost his transport manager’s repute and the licence held by his company, Genesis 2014 (UK), was revoked after a public inquiry heard about his conviction, plus a second one for his part in a VAT fraud.
The PI heard that Hughes had answered ‘no’ on the GV79 application form in 2014 when it asked if the applicant had any convictions.
Conspiracy
However, West Midlands TC Nicholas Denton said he received information in August 2018 that Hughes had been convicted of conspiracy to supply cannabis in 2005 after HMRC seized 2.5 tonnes of resin from his operating centre in Blyth Business Park, Cresswell, Staffordshire.
At the time, Hughes was operating as a sole trader called Abbey Freight.
In 2008, while still in prison, he was sentenced to six years, to run concurrently, for his part in a £250m VAT fraud involving the import and export of mobile phones.
At the PI, Hughes submitted a note accepting he had not disclosed the two convictions, but stating that the offences were both linked to the HMRC investigation and it was not the case he had been convicted of one and then later reoffended. He added that the convictions dated back 15 years, were not linked to Genesis, and it had operated without any significant compliance issues.
Hughes’s QC, Adrian Keeling, also pointed out that Genesis was a well-run business and revocation of the licence would cause profound financial hardship to the company and its 68 employees.
The TC acknowledged that Genesis was largely compliant and that there was “nothing remotely in the company’s record, which would have brought it to a public inquiry, were it not for the repute issue”.
He added that it appeared Hughes had put his criminal days behind him, but if he had declared the convictions in 2014 then the application would have been refused.
“Two prison sentences of 12 and six years respectively are extremely serious matters,” he said. “Mr Hughes was still actually serving his 12-year prison sentence, which ran until 2017, at the time the licence was granted in December 2014, although by then he was no longer physically in prison.
“It is inconceivable that either he or the very recently founded company, of which he was the sole director, would have been judged to have the necessary good repute.”
In a written decision Denton concluded that Hughes had lost his good repute and the operator, Genesis, had also lost its repute.
As a result, he disqualified Hughes from being a transport manager for five years and said this was proportional because it “pays some respect to his good record of compliance since 2014”.
He was also disqualified from holding a licence for five years, but Denton added: “I am not disqualifying the company Genesis from holding a licence in the future. It may be that, if it restructures itself so that Marcus Hughes is no longer the controlling mind or majority shareholder of the company, an application for a licence would be eligible.”

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Driver was stopped with no HGV licence

A company whose driver was stopped by the DVSA and found not to have any entitlement to drive HGVs has had its licence revoked and its director disqualified for three years.

At a public inquiry (PI) in Birmingham, TC Nicholas Denton found GRA Haulier, which had a licence for five vehicles and five trailers, lacked financial standing, professional competence, an effective and safe establishment and had failed to ensure the lawful driving of vehicles.

The PI heard how one of its lorries was stopped in April 2018 and its driver, Kuljit Singh, had no driving entitlement. The company claimed it had only employed him that day, although it later transpired he had frequently driven for the operator using the name Gurpreet Singh Sekhon.

A DVSA investigation of tachograph charts led the agency to suspect that although they were in the names of several drivers, they had all been filled in by Kuljit Singh.

The agency said that director Rupinder Kaur had not answered any of its requests for information or attended an interview. The operator also failed to attend the PI, did not respond to the call-up letter and was unreachable on its phone numbers.

However, ex-transport manager Karanveer Singh did attend and produced a driving licence for Gurpreet Singh Sekhon, which had the same photograph as the revoked licence of Kuljit Singh, but a different date of birth.

Further investigations during the PI showed the DVLA held a different photo for Singh Sekhon than that provided by Karanveer Singh, leading the TC to believe the drivers were different people.

The TC said revocation was mandatory as there was no evidence of financial standing, professional competence and a stable establishment. He said the director had failed to engage with his office or the DVSA. “There are indications she may be a figurehead, with the true controlling minds operating from the shadows,” he added.

No adverse findings were made against Karanveer Singh, who resigned as transport manager after difficulties contacting the operator.

The TC said: “He is warned that he must take greater care in future to ensure the rigorous checking of driver entitlement.”

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