A High Wycombe man who lied to investigators and tried to cover for a fraudster who evaded nearly £60,000 in duty on smuggled alcohol has been handed a suspended sentence.

Sartaj Singh Gill, 33, from Marlow Road, has been punished for perverting the course of justice after he tried to lie to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to cover up for his friend, builder Dilbagh Singh Dhillon, 39, from Hayes, West London.

Dhillon had 46,318 litres of alcohol stored in an industrial unit in Hounslow owned by Gill. Officers from HMRC seized the smuggled alcohol during a raid on September 15, 2016.

They found a diary with detailed recordings of alcohol orders and cash payments. Under questioning, Dhillon admitted owning the diary, but said that someone else had made the entries in the book. Handwriting analysis later proved it was his writing.

Gill lied to officers and tried to cover for Dhillon by saying another person was the tenant of the unit where the alcohol was stored. Investigators unravelled his story and Gill eventually admitted to providing a false witness statement.

Dhillon pleaded guilty to duty evasion and Gill admitted perverting the course of justice at Southwark Crown Court and were both sentenced on August 6.

Dhillon was jailed for 28 months and Gill was sentenced to 13 months in prison, suspended for 12 months.

Simon Kiefer, assistant director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “Dhillon was stealing from the taxpayer and undercutting legitimate traders. Money that should have been going to vital public services was going into his pocket.

“Gill lied and tried to pervert the course of justice. They’ve now been found guilty and we can begin working on getting that money back.

“We urge any member of the public who may have information about anyone committing tax fraud to get in contact with us by calling 0800 788 887."