Theory Test ‘Fixer’ Jailed

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Police Expose Translation Con

An Urdu translator has been jailed for helping prospective HGV and bus drivers obtain licences by cheating their way through theory tests.

Interpreter Muhammed Saeed, from Ralph Road in Alum Rock, was approved by the Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) to guide non-English speaking applicants through the exam and voiceover its multiple choice questions and answer options in Urdu. 


However, a joint West Midlands Police and DVSA investigation revealed Saeed helped candidates pass by agreeing a cheat’s code that steered clients to the right answers.


DVSA officials became suspicious at the increased number of trucker hopefuls − including some from Kent, Luton and Bradford − choosing to be represented by the 40-year-old interpreter as his client list expanded rapidly from 2010 with a significant upturn in 2013.


An independent interpreter examined recordings of Saeed’s translations and found he used one of several Urdu words meaning ‘you’ to highlight the answer.


His deception dictionary included the words ‘tum’, ‘tumne’, ‘tumen’, ‘tume’, ‘tusi’ and ‘tohanu’ − none of which formed part of the answer options but were read out by Saeed during the multiple choice selection he believed was correct.


He also used the phrases ‘tohardi’ and ‘una nu’ − meaning “the answer is” and “you should” respectively − to indicate the favoured option.


Saeed was arrested at the Birmingham test centre in Dale End’s McLaren Building on 10 July last year and, faced with evidence put to him from West Midlands Police’s specialist Economic Crime Unit (ECU), admitted fraud between 14 January and 17 April.


And at Birmingham Crown Court Saeed was jailed for two years having pleaded guilty to six frauds; a further three counts will lie on file.


The driving licences of Saeed’s 239 clients − dating back to the first voiceover he provided in June 2008 − have been revoked on road safety grounds and all will have to re-apply for licences and re-take theory tests.


Investigating officer, Detective Constable Mark Calvert from West Midlands Police’s ECU, said: “This was a serious fraud that potentially put road users and pedestrians at risk by putting people behind the wheel of vehicles when they were not properly qualified or competent enough to drive.


“The test for HGV and bus drivers goes beyond what’s required on the standard theory exam as there are aspects relating to load and passenger safety…so for someone to bluff their way through questions without understanding the safety implications us very serious.”


It’s understood Saeed charged £120 for his services as, during a search of his home, police found handwritten notes linked to candidates which documented how much each had paid and if any cash was outstanding. One read “£80 paid £40 left to pay”.


Three of his clients had failed more than 15 theory tests − with one having flunked 25 times − before turning to Saeed for help.


Saeed agreed different cheat’s code agreements with clients: seven of the nine transcripts examined revealed consistent cheating − on one test he indicated on 46 out of 50 questions − but two showed Saeed only gave assistance when the candidate repeated the question.


Detectives believe that was effectively a nod to Saeed that they were unsure of the answer and needed help.


DC Calvert, added: “It seems Saeed was establishing a reputation as a theory test ‘fixer’ in the Muslim community for anyone struggling to pass.


“At the start of each test translators have to read out a vow which states ‘I confirm I will not do anything to affect the integrity of the test and understand that by assisting a candidate I may be committing a criminal offence’.


“He obviously thought it was easy money and that, as the cheat’s code was in Urdu, assumed the DVSA and police would be oblivious to his scheme. He was wrong and is now paying the price for his con.


“Different words were used in an attempt to disguise the cheating. However, although different cheat code words are used, they all have similar meanings and put some form of emphasis on the candidate. The cheating pattern is clear and consistent and can easily be seen in the transcripts of the test recordings.”


Foreign language support on driving theory and practical tests was axed in April this year partly due to numerous cases of cheating on translator tests being uncovered by the DVSA.


One of the most extensive frauds was exposed by West Midlands Police last year and saw a Mandarin interpreter jailed after admitting a theory test cheat scam that’s believed to have netted £100,000. It was the first time a translator has been jailed for DVSA fraud.


DVSA’s Head of Fraud and Integrity, Andy Rice, said: “The driving test is there to ensure that all drivers have the skills and knowledge to use the roads safely and responsibly. Anyone who tries to circumvent this process is putting innocent road users at risk.


“This sentence sends a clear message that driving test fraud is a serious offence and will be dealt with accordingly. We have stringent measures in place to detect fraudulent activity and work closely with the police to bring all offenders to justice.”

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