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13 May 2014

Couple were both benefit thieves

A curry house owner who falsely claimed £41,000 in benefits - which his burkha-wearing wife spent on designer clothing - has been jailed for 15 months. (h/t Dave)

Mohammed Chowdhury, 33, claimed he only earned £40 a week as a restaurant waiter despite running a thriving business in Colchester, Essex with a turnover of £400,000 a year.

He also pocketed housing and council tax benefit after failing to tell authorities his home was rented from his mother-in-law.

Chowdhury’s partner, mother-of-two Johura Begum, 32, spent £13,000 of the cash on clothing at Burberry and Reiss, £1,200 on bedroom furniture and £130 a time on regular trips to the hairdresser, London's Old Bailey heard.

Begum, who claimed she could not work because of injuries she suffered in a car accident, has already been jailed for eight months for her part in the fraud.

Chowdhury, who spent the rest of the money on his drug habit, failed to turn up to court for his sentencing hearing.

Judge Richard Marks QC sentenced him in his absence because of his repeated breaches of bail.

The judge said: 'An amount of greed appears to have motivated these offences. Given he has a longstanding addiction to class A drugs I am driven to the conclusion that, of the two of them, he was far and away the most culpable and was unquestionably the initiator of the offences.'

Chowdhury and his wife admitted making three fraudulent income support claims to the Department of Work and Pensions in 2010, two in 2011, and a single claim in 2009. They also admitted making a fraudulent housing benefit claim between February 9 and March 2, 2007, by not declaring that a relative owned the property at Inworth Walk, Colchester.

Chowdhury owned the Spices Restaurant in Colchester, but told benefits authorities he could only get around 16 hours waiting work a week for which he was paid between £30 and £40.

On one application form, Begum claimed she had nothing in her bank account when she had taken out nearly £800 that day.

‘There were extensive shopping expeditions including trips to the hairdresser which cost her £130,’ said prosecutor Pauline Thompson. ‘She had a penchant for visits to the high-end shops in Canary Wharf. This was a lady who purchased her groceries in Waitrose. She also spent £400 at Burberry and £200 at Reiss.’

Begum also made a bogus benefits claim to Tower Hamlets Council after the couple moved in with her parents in Poplar, east London.

After her arrest, Begum insisted she had no idea her husband ran his own restaurant or that her parents owned a property in Ipswich. She claimed she was in fear of her husband, who refused to let her out of the house or get a job. When she was jailed in December last year she shouted: ‘Prison? I’ve got two children.'

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