A high-profile Runcorn chauffeur company responsible for millions of miles of car clocking offences has been found guilty of fraud.
On 21 November 2017, a jury convicted Runcorn based PCS Events Limited – a private hire firm which traded under the names PCS and PCS Chauffeurs – of fraud. The court heard how PCS Chauffeurs was the company behind Emirates UK chauffeurs service in Manchester and Birmingham and provided various celebrities and high-profile clients such as the X Factor with chauffeur services.
PCS Events entered a plea of not guilty and did not send representation to the trial. It was scheduled to last for two weeks, but the jury reached the decision after only nine minutes that the company was guilty of conspiracy to defraud. The company was fined £250,000 and ordered to pay nearly £49,000 costs, at Liverpool Crown Court.
The sentence follows a three-year investigation by Halton and Warrington Borough Councils – the biggest probe of its kind carried out by the teams. It found that more than 100 vehicles had been clocked, with evidence of clocking dating from 2008 to 2014. The minimum amount of clocking which is believed to have taken place is 7.5million miles.
The investigation saw several senior staff from the company sentenced for conspiracy to commit fraud. In April 2017, owner John Murphy, 67, Conwy, was given three years in prison, with Paul Arslanian, 38, Conwy (two years and three months); Christopher Graham Lunt, 39, Chester (20 months); and Trevor Gareth Jones, 58, Colwyn Bay (15 months). Simon Richard Williams, who carried out MoT testing of clocked vehicles, producing documents which showed incorrect mileage, was given 18 months. The defendants, who worked for PCS Events Ltd, were found guilty of operating a widespread system of clocking the cars in their possession.
Warrington Borough Council’s executive board member for public protection, Cllr Judith Guthrie, said: “This was an extremely complex investigation and is a major success in our fight against fraud. The successful prosecution of first the individuals and, now, the company in this case is the result of years of hard work by trading standards, supported by Halton Borough Council’s Legal Team.”
PCS Events Ltd operated a widespread system of clocking the cars in their possession. The company sought to profit from the offence through selling vehicles which had previously been on lease hire for chauffeuring purposes. Subsequent sale prices of vehicles sold by the company were inflated, based upon the incorrect mileage.
Warrington and Halton trading standards began investigating PCS in 2013 after receiving information of alleged fraud and consumer protection offences, relating to the turning back of mileages on vehicles obtained by the company.
A huge amount of evidence was gathered – including the cross referencing of fuel records for vehicles, examining finance and warranty work records and recording the accounts of people who had purchased ‘clocked’ vehicles.
Seven individuals were prosecuted for conspiracy to commit fraud in the case. All pleaded “not guilty”, with Lunt subsequently changing his plea to guilty. Two of the defendants, Laura Jayne Murphy and Kevin Paul Batty of Sutton were acquitted of the charges.
Judge Cummings specifically praised the lead investigator for the enormous amount of painstaking work that went into the investigation and the way it was presented at trial that made it very clear for the court and the jury to understand.
During the original car clocking trial nearly a year ago, Paul Arslanian put forward an updated defence statement, in which it was claimed during the hearing that both Arslanian and his defence counsel believed that the car clocking was a conspiracy between PCS drivers, behind the management’s back, to clock vehicles.
As the “theory” was outlined in court, it was claimed that around 30 drivers were behind the car clocking, with a number of these drivers having been identified by name. However, this theory was undermined by the prosecutor, Mr Pratt QC. By the end of the cross examination Arslanian stated that “he wished he could take back the theory”. The theory was further undermined when the jury convicted Arslanian of conspiracy to defraud.
The case brought by trading standards was based on just over 100 vehicles. The prosecution didn’t try to prove how or where the clocking was done, or to speculate on mileages. Trading standards claimed at trial that a minimum of 7.5 million miles were removed from the vehicles but the true figure could be substantially higher – especially when taking into account mileages between the clocking.
Following on from John Murphy being found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud at Chester Crown Court in February along with four colleagues, the Traffic Commissioner revoked the company’s operator licence with immediate effect. Paul Arslanian was also disqualified as acting as Transport Manager for the firm indefinitely.
In the last audited accounts filed by PCS Events Limited for the year ending 31 July 2015, the auditor provided a statement on the “pending litigation”, stating: “The company is presently engaged in strenuously contested litigation. After taking legal advice the directors are confident of a favourable outcome and do not see these events as likely to compromise the future trading operations of the company.”
However, the company extended its accounting period to 31 January 2017 and according to companies house PCS has failed to file accounts which were due on the 31 October 2017. If, as expected PCS Events Ltd collapses this will be the third company in seven years associated to the Murphy family and “prestigious” Emirates chauffeur service contract to have collapsed.
The PCS website and phone number have been diverted to a new company called Sapphire Travel Management which is run by John Murphy’s son, James Murphy. The “new” company is based at Livingston House, Tarvin Road, Frodsham and it appears PCS left their Runcorn based premises some time ago.
According to The Times, Emirates Airline has failed to respond to requests for comments; and according to Sapphire Travel Management’s own website now claims to now be Emirates “preferred chauffeur service”, stating: “Sapphire Airline, a company renowned for their high standards of excellence and service, and are proud to be their preferred chauffeurs here in the UK”
Sapphire’s website claims: “Unparalleled quality is something that is paramount within the Sapphire business. It is one of the key factors that differentiates us from the competition. It begins with the quality of our fleet of over 150 vehicles, which predominantly comprises Mercedes ‘E’ class or higher specification vehicles.”
However, according to Cheshire West and Chester Council it appears that Sapphire Travel Management only have two vehicles licensed with the council. It appears that the fleet of 150 vehicles Sapphire has been claiming to have for a number of months now actually belong to PCS Events Limited which raises questions over claims made.