Legal professionals accused of being part of alleged £12.6 million legal aid scam to try & get charges against them dismissed

Thee Judges among nine legal professionals accused of being part of an alleged £12.6 million legal aid scam are to try and get the charges against them dismissed.

The judges, barristers and other legal officials are accused of forming a corrupt ring to manipulate the publicly-funded legal aid system to line their own pockets.

Part-time immigration judges Rasib Ghaffar, 48, his wife Kareena Maciel, 46, and part-time civil judge Razi Shah, 47, were among those to appear in the dock at Southwark Crown Court today.

Barrister Shahid Rashid, 57, solicitors Joseph Ameyaw-Kyeremeh, 67, Azhar Khan, 46, Lloyd Moody, 48, Samira Bashir, 46, and legal clerk Gazi Khan, 50, who told court he has legally changed his name to Steven J Parker, also appeared.

This allegation relates to claims in a civil dispute involving a chain of Indian restaurants at Bournemouth Crown Court costing £1.3 million.

All were charged with fraud by false representation between May 8, 2011, and September 19, 2013, against the Courts and Tribunals Service.

Two other allegedly fraudulent cases relate to a more than £10m trial at the Old Bailey in June 2012 and a trial Kingston Crown Court on June 2011, costing over £930,000.

At one stage up to ten cases, both criminal and civil, were under the spotlight, with claims totalling more than £15million in question.

Prosecutors suspect lawyers switched the way in which clients’ representation was funded from legal aid to private without telling them to charge far higher costs rather than the flat fees imposed by the publicly-funded system when they were cleared.

The defendants are said to have made representations “which they knew was or might be untrue or misleading” in respect of legal costs to “make a gain for yourself”.

Barrister Ghaffar and solicitor Maciel, of Woodford, east London, decide asylum claims and migrant appeals.

Shah, of Windsor, Berks, is a solicitor advocate.

None of the defendants entered pleas to the fraud or conspiracy to commit fraud charges between the beginning of 2011 and May 2013 while their applications to dismiss are made.

John McGuinness QC prosecuting told the court Gazi and Azhar Khan also face previous charges from 2015 for similar offences which could be joined to the current three indictments.

Both are alleged to have falsely claimed legal aid costs in the case of R v Jason Stewart in June 2012.

He said: “The claim from 2015 was investigated and was charged in the normal course of events.

“Thereafter a far larger investigation came to light. There are some striking similarities.

“It’s been agreed for the purposes of case management that the 2015 case should be joined with the 2018 so those matters go into the melting pot.

“The Crown propose to join the Stewart indictment in 2015 with the second indictment in the current case.”

The court heard the trial for the 2015 case was due to start last month.

There could be three or four trials, depending if the 2015 case is added the more recent investigation, – called Operation Larksburg.

As many as five, but possibly all the defendants, indicated they would make applications to dismiss and stay the charges due to an “abuse of process”, the court was told.

Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith warned the defendants to attend court at the next hearing.

He said: “I don’t need to tell anyone here that if you fail to attend the trial it an proceed in your absence and to not attend a trial can be a criminal offence.”

Court documents show the legal aid cases relate to are: ‘R v Pritesh Naik’, ‘R v Richard Lowry’, ‘R v Amy Trinh’, ‘R v Taj Mahal Partnership, Farrukh Miah and Chunu Miah’ and ‘R v Taj Mahal 2 (Poole) ltd, Miah Partnership, Farrukh Miah and Chunu Miah’.

Rashid, of Langley, Berks, is charged with two counts of fraud by false representation, between 1 June 2011 and 21 December 2011 and 8 May 2012 and 19 September 2013, and two counts of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation on 31 May 2012 and between 1 January 2011 and 7 May 2013.

Shah, of Windsor, Berks, is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation between 1 January 2011 and 7 May 2013.

Ameyaw-Kyeremeh, of Croydon, south london, is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation between 1 January 2011 and 7 May 2013.

Ghaffar, of Redbridge, east London, is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation between 1 January 2011 and 7 May 2013.

Azhar Khan, of Pinner, north west London, is charged with one count of fraud by false representation on 31 May 2012 and one count of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation between 1 January 2011 and 7 May 2013.

Gazi Khan, of Isleworth, west London, is charged with three counts of fraud by false representation, between June 1, 2011, and 21 December 2011, between 8 May 2012 and 19 September 2013 and on 31 May 2012, and one count of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation between 1 January 2011 and 7 June 2013.

Maciel, of Redbridge,is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation between 1 January 2011 and 7 May 2013.

Moody, of Surbiton, surrey, is charged with two counts of fraud by false representation, between 1 June 2011 and 21 December 2011, and between 8 May 2012 and 19 September 2013.

All the defendants were released on unconditional bail to next appear at Southwark Crown Court on October 8 for a application to dismiss hearing. There will then be a plea hearing on October 12.

 

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