Barrister jailed for three years over legal aid fraud

Ghaffar: Fourth man to be jailed

A barrister and part-time immigration tribunal judge who was the last of a group of lawyers found guilty of defrauding the Legal Aid Agency by falsely claiming defence legal costs has been jailed for three years.

Rasib Ghaffar, 54, conspired to inflate legal fees and work claimed for in 2011 and 2012 together with solicitor-advocate Azhar Khan, 52, solicitor Joseph Kyeremeh, 73, and legal clerk Gazi Khan, 55.

All were convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation.

Mr Ghaffar had pleaded not guilty but was convicted in February.

The Crown Prosecution Service said the prosecutions followed a substantial police investigation into fraudulent claims for defendants’ costs orders (DCOs) submitted to the Legal Aid Agency national taxing team on behalf of acquitted defendants in criminal proceedings in Crown Courts.

The evidence in this trial focused on claims for the costs of four defendants who were acquitted at Bournemouth Crown Court. Of the nearly £1.9m claimed, a quarter (£470,000) was paid out.

There were six defendants in 2011 accused of employing staff at two Indian restaurants who were unlawfully present in the UK. A deal was done that two of the defendants would plead guilty and the case against the other four would be dropped. The court was then asked to make a DCO.

The prosecution said it was doubtful that the four defendants were private clients at all in the sense that they ever paid or agreed to pay their own costs.

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

Gazi Khan was jailed for five years in March 2022, having been involved in three legal aid frauds which would have netted £12m if successful.

Mr Kyeremeh was handed a two-year sentence, suspended for two years for medical reasons, back in December 2021, while Azhar Khan received the same sentence last year. Both were partners in City Law Solicitors Ltd.

His wife, solicitor Kareena Maciel, 52, was found unfit to stand trial for medical reasons.

Malcolm McHaffie, a deputy crown prosecutor, said the Crown Prosecution Service would now commence confiscation proceedings in order to reclaim the proceeds derived from the fraud.

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