Charity boss and his wife who flew hundreds of Bangladeshi migrants to Britain for a day to claim £1.6million in benefits are jailed
• Headed scam that saw migrants fly to UK and illegally claim state handouts
• Italian nationals of Bangladeshi origin went to Job Centre interviews to get National Insurance numbers
• Their details were then connected to bogus addresses and they were registered with the Government as working for 24 hours per week
• Meant they were entitled to housing benefits and council tax credit claims
• Fake claims cost Redbridge and Tower Hamlets Council total of £1,582,519
Chowdhury Muyeed, 52, was the £44,000-a-year head of finance at Blood Pressure UK, when he headed the ‘con air’ scam that saw welfare cheats fly to Britain from Italy and illegally claim handouts
A charity boss and his wife who flew hundreds of Bangladeshis to Britain to claim £1.6million in benefits have been jailed.
Chowdhury Muyeed, 52, was the £44,000-a-year head of finance at Blood Pressure UK, when he headed the ‘con air’ scam that saw welfare cheats fly to Britain from Italy and illegally claim state handouts.
Muyeed – who carried out the fraud with his wife Asma Khanam, 47, and a man called Habibur Rahman – also used two other charities as ‘fronts’ to help arriving migrants dupe the benefits system.
He was jailed for five-and-a-half years today at Snaresbrook Crown Court in East London for running the fraud.
His wife was imprisoned for three-and-a-half years after being found guilty of producing or furnishing documents or information as part of the same scam.
Judge Nigel Peters QC told the three defendants: ‘You have been convicted by the jury of a most blatant assault on the UK benefits system.’
The court heard how Muyeed, from Newbury Park, in north-east London, set up the companies Families for Survival UK and Age Shelter UK Ltd to pay wages to Italian passport-holders.
Migrants based in Italy, who were supplied with sham addresses, flew into the UK through Stansted Airport in Essex to attend Job Centre interviews, before getting their hands on National Insurance numbers.
One of those addresses, on Mile End Road in east London, was so busy migrants spilled out onto the street in front of an Italian restaurant below.
Their details were then linked to bogus addresses and they were registered with the government as working for the couple 24 hours a week, making them entitled to housing benefit and council tax credit claims.
Redbridge Borough Council in East London identified 300 suspect applications had been submitted.
Their fake claims cost Redbridge and neighbouring Tower Hamlets Council a total of £1,582,519.
Investigators were able to link Bangladesh-born accountant Muyeed and his wife to £692,927 of fraudulent claims, with Rahman pocketing £187,920 in false claims.
The Department of Work and Pensions also lost more than £420,000 in falsely claimed tax credits.
Prosecutor Mark Himsworth told the court the pair were involved in a ‘large scale fraud to bring people to the UK to claim benefits they were not entitled to receive’.
‘One of the ways they did that was to set up companies or charities which in fact did no real work at all but provided pay slips, references and made payments into bank accounts,’ he added.
Asma Khanam, 47, was imprisoned for three-and-a-half years after being found guilty of producing or furnishing documents or information as part of the same scam
Prior to the married couple appearing in court some 28 migrants had previously been convicted of making false benefit applications.
In 26 of the cases the migrants claimed to be working for firms or charities run by Muyeed and Khanam at their headquarters in Ilford, East London, which was above Redbridge Council’s own benefit offices.
Four convicted migrants told how they had worked for companies such as Crystal Job Limited, which was run by Rahman, 36, a married father of three from Mile End, East London, who was jailed for three years and three months after being convicted of dishonestly producing or furnishing documents.
Other migrant claimants are being investigated by both Redbridge and Tower Hamlets who have found hundreds of other suspect claims.
The DWP is currently investigating the full scale of the fraud and losses could run into ‘many millions of pounds’, making it one of Britain’s largest-ever benefit frauds.
Rahman and Khanam were among 13 people arrested in May last year as part of ‘Operation Rhino’, led by Redbridge Council and the Metropolitan Police.
The probe by police, council and Government investigators prompted a raid on one flat (pictured) above a restaurant in Bow, east London, used as an address by 400 claimants
Muyeed – described in court as ‘deeply devious, conniving and dishonest’ – handed himself in to police a week later after arriving back from a trip to Italy.
The court heard that the accountant is a father of three, with children aged 21, 19 and 13 who are financially dependent on him.
Judge Peters said: ‘You were responsible for arranging and facilitating a large number of people who otherwise would have had no involvement in this country or indeed fraud by claiming false housing benefit.
‘The bogus employments were all for companies which you had set up and controlled.
‘These companies, which did little or no trading, purported to be involved in recruitment, clothing and – by far the worst aspect – you, Muyeed and Khanam, used charities that had been given official status by the Charity Commission.
‘You Khanam shamefully said in interview that the company – Save the Age/Families For Survival UK – raises money for elderly people, street children and people suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia.
‘You Muyeed said in evidence that you were seeking to educate people in the awareness of illnesses and conditions prevalent in the elderly.
‘There is no alternative to immediate terms of imprisonment for blatant, persistent and serious fraudulent activity.’
Flying into Britain: The Italy-based migrants arrived at London Stansted Airport (file picture) before going to interviews at the Job centre and getting National Insurance numbers for use on bogus pay slips
Families for Survival UK claimed to run relief projects and an orphanage in Bangladesh and an education project in Kenya.
The charity’s last accounts reported it received annual income of £316,000 and was chosen locally as a charity of the year by supermarket Sainsbury’s.
A forensic accountant hired by Redbridge Council trawled through the records of Families for Survival UK, Save the Age and other companies connected to the defendants.
Mr Himsworth said: ‘He came to the conclusion they were a sham. They were conducting no real trading business.’
But Muyeed insisted that his companies and charities were genuine and claimed his office manager was responsible for any fraud.
There is no suggestion Blood Pressure UK was used as part of the fraud, and a spokesman said it was ‘shocked’ by the actions of their former employee, who spent three years at the charity.