A judge has demanded an explanation of how a “gang leader” in an organized criminal gang with 48 previous criminal convictions was able to secure a £50,000 government loan from Covid.
Judge Anthony Cross, who has sentenced six men in Manchester Crown Court for their role in a plot to steal and export expensive cars, said Thursday he “defies belief” that defendant Asif Hussain, 44, had successfully applied for the state-backed loan. . Despite his long criminal record.
The case underscores the extent to which organized criminal gangs have been able to exploit weaknesses in the UK government’s coronavirus-backed loan scheme.
Official estimates suggest that nearly £5 billion of the £47 billion spent could be lost to fraud.
The scheme has proven popular, with about a quarter of all UK companies applying, but has been criticized for limited verification and a lack of credit checks for borrowers, which the National Audit Office said in December “made it vulnerable to fraud and losses”.
The judge told prosecutors that he requested clarification from the “relevant body” within 14 days on how to obtain the loan, as well as two other loans to recover amounts paid by a fellow gang member. “Here were the simplest checks that would reveal fraud,” he said.
Hussain played a leading role in an organized criminal gang in northwest England that stole cars, such as Range Rovers and Porsches, stripping them of parts or exporting them for sale in the Middle East.
Manchester Crown Court on Thursday heard several cars stolen in ‘horrific’ nighttime robberies from the victims’ ‘horrific’ homes before supplying the gang.
Hussain, who lived in a large detached house in Stockport, Cheshire, pleaded guilty to four offenses including conspiracy to robbery and throwback loan fraud.
The court heard he had submitted a written £50,000 application for a loan in May 2020 and had received the money back to his shell company just seven days later.
Hussain was imprisoned for 15 years, Judge Cross told him: “You have a bad record, including a four-year prison sentence for supplying drugs. You have a total of 48 previous offenses of dishonesty and other crimes. Such a man who managed to obtain a Covid loan is challenging Faith “.
“A criminal like you can get such a huge amount of money is amazing,” he added.
Ebraz Shafeeq, 23, of Oldham in Greater Manchester, was one of the six other defendants to be convicted on Thursday in connection with criminal conspiracy. He was given a five-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to five offences, including more than two repatriated Covid loans he took out worth £95,000.
Launched by Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, in May 2020, the scheme is designed to provide up to £50,000 of cash for businesses struggling during the pandemic.
After sentencing Thursday, Judge Cross told prosecutors that this was the second case in months he’s been dealing with where a criminal gang managed to get “huge amounts of money” from the loan-back scheme.
In November, the same judge demanded to know how a member of a Manchester drug gang managed to get a refund of £25,000.
The public is entitled to an explanation of how to obtain these loans. The judge said: “This interpretation must be made public.”
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said it is continuing to crack down on Covid-19 fraud. “We work closely with lenders and enforcement authorities to reduce fraud and ensure that those who committed fraud face consequences,” she said.