Autism Rocks Support Centre closes amid tax fraud probe

The assets of Dubai resident Sanjay Shah have been frozen as Danish officials seek to claw back losses

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 20 September 2017. CEO of Autism Rocks Mr Sanjay Shah at his offices in DIFC (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Suzanne Clocke. Section: Business.
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A centre for autistic children in the UAE funded by an alleged tax fraudster has closed its doors because of an asset freeze on his multi-million-pound fortune.

Dubai-resident Briton Sanjay Shah has seen his funds cut off as he fights a court case against the Danish tax authority which claims he was the key mover behind a £1.5 billion tax scam.

His company Solo Capital Partners, which closed in 2016, was the main funder of the Autism Rocks Support Centre, charity financial records show.

The day-care centre which helped children with the developmental disorder has now closed its doors, Mr Shah’s spokesman has confirmed. A message on its website said it closed on December 16 “therefore we are no longer providing services.”

Nobody answered the door at the centre in Dubai Healthcare City when the National visited. The office was locked and shredded papers could be seen on the floor through a locked glass door. A security guard said it had been closed for at least three months.

Mr Shah's wife – described as founder and chief executive of the centre – is one of the 71 defendants accused of involvement in the tax scam, according to documents filed in London's High Court. She is said to have been the sole director of a company that saw tens of millions of pounds pass through its accounts from the tax operation.

The UK-based Autism Rocks charity was set up in 2014 and sought to raise money by organising concerts that featured artists including Prince, Joss Stone and Elvis Costello. The support centre was launched three years later in Dubai and was described as a “boutique centre offering evidence-based therapies that work”.

“Sanjay was operating an autism centre and because his money was frozen, 30 autistic children have nowhere to go for treatment,” said his spokesman Jack Irvine.

Mr Shah moved to Dubai in 2009 and lives on the Palm Jumeirah development and once kept a £1m yacht. He later described it as his biggest financial regret.

The Danish government announced earlier this week that it had seized a £15 million home near Hyde Park as it sought to recoup its losses from the scam.

Kirsten Dyrman, an international crime prosecutor for Denmark said that officials seized assets worth one quarter of the amount defrauded from the Danish treasury.

Denmark would continue to try to seize assets “while investigating whether persons can be punished in the case”, she said in a statement. Officials said that nobody had yet been charged.

Mr Irvine confirmed that the seized house belonged to Mr Shah and was one of a number of assets in the capital that had been frozen.

The Danish tax authority claims that Mr Shah was a key player in a scheme in which foreign firms pretended to own shares in Danish companies and then claim tax refunds they were not eligible to receive.

It has launched legal action in the UK where many companies, including Solo Capital, were based. Mr Shah, who claims that he was exploiting a perfectly legal loophole to make trades that are the heart of the alleged wrongdoing.

He said his schemes were a “widely known and wholly legitimate trading strategy” but have been stopped by other European governments.