6 Mar 2014

£23k benefits thief is an MBE and retired magistrate

A community stalwart with an MBE has been spared jail after claiming more than £23,000 of taxpayers' money by lying about his savings.

Former magistrate Rahmat Ali Raja, 75, dishonestly claimed pension credits and council tax reductions for 10 years - despite, at one point, having more than £102,000 across nine bank accounts.

But the retired charity director, who was also a local councillor in Pendle, Lancashire, was spared jail for his crimes.

Speaking after the hearing, Raja, originally from Gujarat, Pakistan, said: 'I am very sorry. I made a mistake.'

Raja, who has already paid the amounts back in full, was handed a 24-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months.

He pleaded guilty to two counts of dishonestly failing to disclose information to make a gain for himself, and one count of dishonestly making a false statement to obtain a benefit.

Preston Magistrates' Court heard that, between October 2003 and September 2013, Raja told the Department for Work and Pensions he was retired and had just £5,601 in savings.He wrongly claimed £11,379 in the process.

Raja also failed to declare his real savings to Pendle Council in November 2004, allowing him to wrongly claim £11,898 between October 2003 and March 2013.

John Abbott, prosecuting, told the court how Raja would receive the payments into his Halifax bank account via automatic credit transfer.

He said: 'Evidence has now become available that he had £83,000 on October 6, 2003 which was not disclosed at the time. Had the true facts been known, there would have been an effect on his benefits.'

In 2009, Raja claimed he only had one bank account, which he shared with his wife.

But Mr Abbott said: 'He had nine other accounts in his and his wife’s names and agrees they were there when he made the original claims for pension credit. He denied acting dishonestly and said he made a mistake.'

Too right.

John Wishart, defending, said: 'First of all, the guidelines make it clear that a large sum of money can be accumulated over a long period of time, as in this case. Of considerable mitigation is that the money was instantly repaid in full. The final payment was made in September last year.'

He added that the ‘highest recorded amount’ in Raja’s savings at any one time was ‘a little over £102,000’. He added that although these accounts were in his name, they were shared by many members of Raja’s family.

Sparing Raja jail, chairman of the bench Kathleen Strickland said his offences had been aggravated because he 'committed the fraud from the outset’.

But she said Raja’s age, early guilty plea, full repayment and ill health prevented her from handing out an immediate custodial sentence.

As well as his suspended jail sentence, which could be activated it he re-offends within 12 months, Raja must pay court costs of £85 and a £75 victim surcharge.

Mrs Strickland said: “If you break this condition it could be very serious for you.”

And give back the MBE.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What honest person needs 9 bank accounts?

He didnt need this money, it was pure greed.