First conviction for Eat Out to Help Out fraud

A former Keighley councillor has become the first individual to be jailed for making fraudulent claims under the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme.

Mohammed Ikram was sentenced to two-and-a-half years for making claims totalling £434,073 for eight different food outlets over four weeks.

Under the terms of the scheme, food outlets were offered 50 per cent discounts in a bid to aid the hospitality sector, which was badly hit during the pandemic, as Covid-19 restrictions were relaxed.

According to the prosecution, Ikram registered with the scheme and used his own name and telephone number for each of his claims, with the computer IP address used traced to his home.

Eight of the 19 claims he made were paid by the Government, while 11 were rejected. Ikram paid just over £189,000 into bank accounts held by his wife, with the balance being paid into accounts he controlled.

He and his wife were arrested in June 2021 after an investigation by HM Revenue & Customs’ (HMRC) Taxpayer Protection Taskforce. The case against his wife was later dropped.

In court last June, Ikram admitted cheating the public revenue, fraud by false representation and associated money laundering and was sentenced in March this year.

As a spokesman for HMRC’s fraud investigation service commented, it was a “blatant fraud by somebody who held a position of trust and responsibility”.

He added that although this is the first conviction of Covid scheme fraud by HMRC, 70 people had been arrested and many cases are working their way through the criminal justice system.

Roger Isaacs, Forensic Partner at Milsted Langdon, said: “HMRC continues to take a thorough approach to investigating fraud perpetrated via the various support schemes offered to businesses during the pandemic.

“This is one of many cases being prosecuted, it would seem, within just one of the support schemes provided by the Government and HMRC is investing significant resources, including forensic accounting, to uncover the fraud that has taken place.”

Source: Sky News

Posted in The Forensic Blog.