England: Judge facing jail over £2m legal aid fraud

England: Judge facing jail over £2m legal aid fraud

An English judge faces jail after being convicted of involvement in a scheme to defraud almost £2 million from the legal aid system.

Rasib Ghaffar, 54, a barrister and part-time immigration tribunal judge, conspired to inflate legal fees and work claimed for in 2011 and 2012 together with Gazi Khan, 55, legal clerk; Azar Khan, 52, solicitor advocate; and Joseph Kyeremeh, 73, solicitor.

The fraudsters took advantage of the mechanism by which defendants who pay their own legal costs can claim some of this back from the legal aid system after being acquitted through what is known as a defendant’s costs order (DCO).

The evidence in this case focussed on four claims, arising from the legal costs of four defendants who were acquitted. These defendants were then able to apply for the legal costs of their defence to be paid by the taxpayer. These four claims totalled £1,856,584, of which £469,477 (25 per cent) was paid out.

Gazi Khan, the leader in this criminal operation, worked as a clerk to Shadid Rashid, providing legal costs services to several solicitor firms. He has now been convicted of fraud offences relating to fraudulent DCOs.

Azar Khan was the principal partner in City Law Solicitors Ltd and according to evidence gathered by the prosecution, the firm started work on the case resulting in the claims on 1 July 2011, about 10 weeks before it concluded, yet claimed to have carried out over 500 hours work, costing over £162,000.

The firm’s claim also falsely backdated the work it had said it had done to include a long period when it was not instructed to represent any defendant, resulting in a payment of £93,000 from the taxpayer.

Joseph Kyeremeh was a principal partner in the same law firm. His legal work resulted in a claimed relating to 650 hours work, at a value of over £176,000, with £60,000 coming from public funds.

The defendant in the final trial, Mr Ghaffar, was responsible for a fee note in his name for £184,000, relating to over 350 hours of work, yet the evidence shows he had only been instructed seven days before the conclusion of the case.

Malcolm McHaffie of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: “These convicted defendants defrauded the Legal Aid Agency for their own purposes. They fraudulently took advantage of a statutory scheme which was designed to help acquitted defendants with their genuinely incurred legal costs.

“The Metropolitan Police and the CPS worked closely together to bring these corrupt legal professionals to justice and are now facing the consequences of their wrongdoing.

“The CPS will now commence confiscation proceedings in order to reclaim the defendants’ proceeds derived from the fraud.”

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