'Shameful' conmen jailed for inventing Rainham charities in £500,000 Gift Aid scam
PUBLISHED: 14:37 12 January 2016 | UPDATED: 14:54 12 January 2016
Two "shameful" fraudsters who invented fake charities so they could claim £500,000 in donations have been jailed.
Essex pair Abdulshakour Juma, 43, and Ashraf Salim Ali, 42, claimed they were trustees of the East Coast of African Community and the Bongo Community Association, both based in Harbour House, Coldharbour Lane, Rainham.
They told HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Charity Commission they were supporting the East African community in Southend.
But investigators discovered the unemployed conmen were lying about claims they had submitted for Gift Aid repayments over a 15-month period and the pair were arrested and charged with fraud and money laundering offences.
By this time, £148,015.05 of the £534,640.95 total claimed had already been paid out to the charities.
Juma, of Rayleigh Drive, Leigh-on-Sea, was sentenced to 30 months in prison on in December. Ali, of Seabrooke Rise, Grays, failed to appear at the hearing and was jailed for 30 months on Monday.
Mike O’Grady, Assistant Director Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “The fact that this pair would stoop so low as to use a charity as a front to extort money from the taxpayer is shameful. Gift Aid is in place to support legitimate charities and offer extra funding, not as an extra income for greedy criminals to abuse the system.
“HMRC and our partners, the Charity Commission and Essex Police, have brought to justice two selfish criminals who had they not been stopped would have robbed our public services of a great deal more.
“Ali and Juma will now pay the price for their criminal activity. Not only have they lost their freedom, but HMRC will now look to recover their criminal profits.”
Juma also admitted making fraudulent Working Tax Credit claims of £1,012 by claiming he was employed by one of the charities.
On sentencing Juma, His Honour Judge Graham, said: “There are two reasons this sort of offending is taken seriously - it is a fraud on the public purse and it makes life much more difficult for people making genuine claims.”