Leeds’ benefit fraudsters jailed

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TWO BROTHERS who falsely claimed more than £220,000 in benefits in what has been described as the biggest ever fraud in the city’s history have been jailed.

Brothers Javeid Akhtar and Banaras Ali pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit benefit fraud at Leeds Crown Court after council investigators discovered an elaborate fraud plot involving the pair, their sisters, wives and mother.

Council investigators found that the family had wrongly claimed a total of £223,843.36 in housing and council tax benefits.

The court was told that between them the pair owned five properties with a total value of £1million.

The family swapped ownership of the properties, claiming on forms that the brothers were ‘landlords’ and their wives and sister ‘tenants’.

Prosecuting Roger Birch QC said: “It’s not a case of musical chairs but of musical houses.”

Sentencing, Judge MCCallum condemned their “dishonesty”, which he said was “at the extreme range of benefit fraud”.

He added: “The sums of money that you stole from just the ordinary hardworking taxpayers who go out and earn a living to enable our benefits system to operate at all was substantial.”

The investigation started in September 2005 when Leeds City Council discovered Akhtar’s wife Saida Khatoon was paying Council Tax for a property on West Park Avenue in Leeds, but was claiming housing benefit and Council Tax benefit from one on nearby Mexborough Drive.

The plot began to unravel as it became clear the family had been creating phantom tenancies to falsely claim housing benefit since 1999.

Investigations showed that they were claiming housing and Council Tax benefit from each others’ properties, never declaring that they were actually related to their ‘landlords’.

In December 2005, Leeds City Council investigators and police arrested brothers Javeid Akhtar and Banaras Ali, along with their brother Tasharaf Ali, and their wives Saida Khatoon and Noreen Akhtar.

Akhtar and his wife had also received £750,000 compensation from the NHS, following an operation on their daughter Mariam, which paid for the purchase of one of their houses.

Their mother, Raj Begum, could not be traced on the day of arrest.

During interviews, the women claimed that their husbands had completed all the forms and they had merely signed them, while their husbands would also take the benefits out of the bank.

When Javeid was confronted about the false statements that were made above, he claimed they were all mistakes.

In return for guilty pleas from Javeid Akhtar and Banaras Ali, charges against Sadia Khatoon, Norren Akhtar and Tashafa Ali would be kept on file.

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