John Murphy’s company operated more than 100 vehicles without licences
John Murphy’s company operated more than 100 vehicles without licencesTIMES PHOTOGRAPHER BRADLEY ORMESHER
Senior police officers blocked an investigation into the head of a criminal gang because they feared that it might embarrass his corporate business partners, The Times can reveal.
The failure to act by Greater Manchester police allowed an illegal multimillion-pound business to operate for years. Its head was eventually convicted of fraud by Trading Standards.
John Murphy, 66, ran one of the country’s biggest chauffeur companies with clocked cars that were not properly licensed, insured or maintained, putting passengers at risk. He gained an advantage over rivals by removing at least seven million miles from more than 100 Mercedes, allowing him to pay less to hire his fleet and sell older cars at inflated prices. The true number of miles clocked is estimated at 50 million.
The company, the Cheshire-based Professional Chauffeur Services (PCS), transported celebrities including the footballers David Beckham and Wayne Rooney and worked for X Factor but its biggest client was the airline Emirates, which employed Murphy on a £10 million contract to transfer its first-class and business-class passengers.
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Murphy evaded detection, even winning a deal to transport dignitaries at the G8 summit at Lough Erne, Co Fermanagh, in 2013, by persuading council officials to dismiss complaints amid a reluctance by the authorities to upset Emirates. The Dubai-based carrier is a big foreign investor in the north of England, transporting more than a million passengers a year to the Middle East, and airport operators were unhappy at the prospect of the company’s wealthiest passengers being inconvenienced.
Murphy’s wrongdoing can be revealed after PCS was found guilty in November of clocking at a corporate trial and fined £250,000. Nine months earlier Murphy, his son-in-law and three associates were jailed at a separate trial for their part in the conspiracy.

The industrial-scale clocking meant Murphy was able to service vehicles less regularly than manufacturers’ recommendations, meaning that VIPs were travelling in potentially dangerous vehicles. On one occasion the front suspension on a Mercedes collapsed just after it dropped off a passenger.
Two years before Murphy’s conviction, an investigation that might have stopped him was abandoned. A task force, including Manchester airport police, found licensing and insurance offences after stopping some of Murphy’s drivers. In a decision since described as “astoundingly lenient”, the company was not prosecuted.
Documents show the police were nervous about acting against Murphy. In minutes from a task force meeting, an official from Solihull council wrote that an inspector at Manchester airport police was “worried about any reputational damage towards Emirates, the airport and the police”. The inspector replied: “During our conversation I did not commit to any involvement in this. I need to be clear that my stance remains the same that no airport resources will be utilised in targeting PCS/Emirates and no activity should take place within the Manchester Airport footprint. This is endorsed by the Airport Police Commander.”
A plan to conduct an operation against PCS at Manchester airport was dropped. The head of a rival company told The Times that he repeatedly warned officers that PCS was operating illegally but was threatened with arrest for wasting police time. Trading Standards eventually acted against Murphy after a tip-off from his drivers.
The revelations are embarrassing for Greater Manchester police after scandals including allegations that officers took bribes from associates of a figure in the city’s criminal underworld. A spokesman said: “Despite requesting details from the licensing official, insufficient intelligence was supplied to begin a formal investigation. We do not take corporate interests into account. We look at the impact of any police or other authority actions on the airport community including the travelling public. Any action must be proportionate to the intelligence. We believe correspondence could have been taken out of context.”
Murphy, who is serving a three-year sentence, insists PCS used a legal loophole that meant his cars did not need to be licensed. He says rivals fabricated complaints and a second stop by the task force found no licensing offences. He says his vehicles were serviced “more frequently than required”.
andrew.ellson@the-times.co.uk 
@andrewellson