A GRAYS man and a man from Leigh-on-Sea, who invented fake charities and donations so they could fraudulently reclaim over Â£500,000 in Gift Aid repayments, have both been jailed for 30 months.
Ashraf Salim Ali, 42, Seabrooke Rise, Grays and Abdulshakour Juma, 43, claimed they were trustees of the East Coast of African Community and the Bongo Community Association charities – telling HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Charity Commission they were supporting the East African community in Southend.
The pair submitted claims for Gift Aid repayments based on donations that had been made to their charities, but an HMRC investigation revealed they had lied, making up the donations so they could falsely claim repayments that weren’t due.
Mike O’Grady, Assistant Director Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said:
“The fact that this pair would stoop so low as to use a charity as a front to extort money from the taxpayer is shameful. Gift Aid is in place to support legitimate charities and offer extra funding, not as an extra income for greedy criminals to abuse the system.
“HMRC and our partners, the Charity Commission and Essex Police, have brought to justice two selfish criminals who had they not been stopped would have robbed our public services of a great deal more.
“Ali and Juma will now pay the price for their criminal activity. Not only have they lost their freedom, but HMRC will now look to recover their criminal profits. If you want to report a tax fraud please call our 24 hotline on 0800 59 5000.”
Juma was sentenced to 30 months in prison on 21 December 2015. Ali failed to appear at the hearing. He was jailed for 30 months on Monday 11 January 2016.
In an attempt to avoid being caught, Ali and Juma quickly withdrew the repayments from the bank in cash. They submitted more than Â£500,000 worth of repayment claims, but HMRC grew suspicious and, after Â£140,000 was paid out, stopped their repayments and began an investigation.
Working with the Charity Commission and Essex Police, HMRC officers arrested Juma and Ali at their home addresses in June 2013 on suspicion of making fraudulent Gift Aid repayment claims and money laundering. Following his arrest, Juma also admitted making fraudulent Working Tax Credit claims of Â£1,012 by falsely claiming he was employed by one of the charities.
On sentencing Juma, His Honour Judge Graham, said:
“You submitted totally fictitious claims and the repayments were syphoned off by you and your co-accused. If all claims had been paid, more than Â£500,000 would have been the benefit of this fraud. There are two reasons this sort of offending is taken seriously – it is a fraud on the public purse and it makes life much more difficult for people making genuine claims.” He went on to say that the fraud was “serious and well-planned”, praising the investigating officers for “their massive attention to detail and their alertness to realising the fraud”.
On sentencing Ali, His Honour Judge Graham, said:
Using a charity as a means to commit fraud “is particularly repellent”.