- Rasib Ghaffar, 54, denies conspiracy to commit fraud with six others
- He allegedly raked in more than £140,000 when he did not even act as an advocate in the case at Bournemouth Crown Court
A judge teamed up with a gang of crooked lawyers to fleece the taxpayer out of nearly £2m in false legal aid claims, a court heard.
Rasib Ghaffar, 54, was part of a group of legal professionals who dishonestly claimed £1,856,584 in costs relating to a trial back in 2011, it was said.
He allegedly raked in more than £140,000 when he did not even act as an advocate in the case at Bournemouth Crown Court, which involved Indian restaurants employing illegal immigrants.
Ghaffar, a qualified barrister and part-time immigration judge denies conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation with six others including a fellow barrister, solicitors, clerk and costs draftsman.
Paul Sharkey, prosecuting, explained that Ghaffar’s wife, solicitor Kareena Maciel, 51, who has been found unfit to stand trial due to medical problems.
Immigration judge Rasib Ghaffar, 54, allegedly raked in more than £140,000 when he did not even act as an advocate in the case at Bournemouth Crown Court, which involved Indian restaurants employing illegal immigrants
Ghaffar’s wife, solicitor Kareena Maciel, 51, who has been found unfit to stand trial due to medical problems
Ghaffar denies conspiracy to commit fraud by false repres
Mr Sharkey told jurors at Southwark Crown Court: ‘The single count on the indictment, conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation, arises out of what the prosecution alleges were four fraudulent claims for payments of substantial amounts of public money following one set of criminal proceedings that took place at Bournemouth Crown Court.
‘The fraudulent claims were, in part, successful. Of the total of over £1.8 million that was claimed, a sum of £470,000 was paid out.
‘The claims related to the legal costs of four of the defendants in the proceedings.
‘It was because the four defendants were acquitted that it was possible for them to apply for legal costs for defending themselves, and for those costs to be paid by the state.
‘The defendant, Rasib Ghaffar is a barrister and was said to have acted as the advocate for one of the defendants in that case. He received sums totalling over £140,000 from solicitors instructed to represent two of the four defendants.
‘The prosecution say that a lot of the work claimed for had not been done at all. It had not been done, and the costs had not been incurred.’
The prosecutor said it was ‘likely the reason Ghaffar and six others hit upon the plan to submit false claims was that, as people who were familiar with the criminal justice system, with the conduct of criminal trials, and they knew that the ‘deal’ meant four of the defendants in the Bournemouth case would be acquitted.
‘That meant that if they could be put forward as genuine private clients, that would create the opportunity to submit false and fraudulent claims to the NTT (National Taxing Team) seeking payment for work done on a private basis that was not actually done at all, or certainly not to the extent stated on the claims.’
Mr Sharkey said solicitors Azhar Khan, 52, and Joseph Ameyaw-Kyeremeh, 72, along with barrister’s clerk Gazi Khan, 52 have already been convicted of their involvement in the conspiracy.
Solicitors Joseph Ameyaw-Kyeremeh (L), 72 and Gazi Khan, 52 (R) have already been convicted of their involvement in the conspiracy
He explained that the case at Bournemouth Crown Court in 2011 concerned four brothers, a partnership and a company.
He said: ‘All six were prosecuted in connection with employing staff at two restaurants who, it was said, were unlawfully present in the UK in breach of this country’s immigration laws.
‘A deal was done between the prosecution and the defence. The deal was that two of the Miah brothers would plead guilty, and the case against the other four defendants (the remaining two brothers, and the company and the partnership) would be dropped, and that is what happened.
‘At the end of the case the Crown Court was informed that these four defendants were privately paying clients and weren’t funded by any legal aid, and the crown court was asked to grant a DCO [defendant’s cost order] in favour of each.
‘The DCO entitled their solicitors to submit claims that the four should be compensated for the legal costs they had incurred.
‘It is the prosecution case that in respect of the four separate (but also connected) claims, false representations were made as to the work said to have been done.
‘It is doubtful that these four defendants were private clients at all, in the sense that there is no evidence that either the two brothers, the partnership or the company had paid – or agreed to pay – for their own legal costs.
‘Indeed the two brothers who were acquitted had in fact been granted legal aid, so the state paying for their legal representation, but requests were made to have their legal aid orders withdrawn on the basis that they were going to be paying private funds.’
Mr Sharkey told the court Ghaffar submitted a £184,000 claim for 350 hours work for one of the defendants in the case – when there is no evidence, he said, that he ‘actually appeared in court as an advocate for any of the defendants, still less the one he claimed to have been the advocate for.’
He continued: ‘A fee note in his name was submitted for £184,000, for which he claimed to have carried out 350 hours of work.
‘Yet the firm who had instructed him and to whom his fee note was addressed had (according to the correspondence) only come into the case seven days before it ended.
‘As with others involved the work he claimed to have carried out was backdated to a time he had not represented the client.
‘He received payments to a total of over £140,000 from one of the firms involved in the case out of public funds they had received from representing one of the private defendants.’
He added that there was no doubt that a conspiracy to commit fraud existed, since three of Ghaffar’s alleged co-conspirators have already been found guilty of it, but that it was for the jury to determine whether Ghaffar was part of it.
Ghaffar, of South Woodford, east London, denies one count of conspiracy to defraud by false representation to HMCTS between 11 September 2011 and 3 October 2012, by submitting claims for defence legal costs arising out of criminal proceedings of Regina v Taj Mahal 2 (Poole) Ltd,…which were and which he knew were untrue or misleading, in that the costs claimed, including disbursements, were not actually incurred in proceedings’.