Judge demands inquiry within DAYS after criminal gang successfully applied for £145,000 in Covid ‘bounce back’ loans – he says ‘basic checks would have revealed fraud’
A judge has called for an inquiry after two members of an organized crime gang were able to successfully apply for £145,000 in Covid ‘bounce back’ loans.
Asif Hussain, the leader of an international ‘chop shop’ network, which exported stolen Range Rovers and other expensive cars to Dubai, was able to secure £50,000 in government funding to help businesses struggling during the pandemic.
Another gang member, Ibraaz Shafique, was able to receive two huge loans, first £50,000 and then £45,000.
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The maximum loan available was £50,000.
Both men had previous criminal convictions.
A judge said “the most basic check” would have uncovered the fraud and demanded an explanation from authorities within two weeks.
Judge Anthony Cross QC said it ‘beyond belief’ that Hussain, who has 48 previous offenses on his record and was previously jailed for four years for drug trafficking, received funding.
The courts in Manchester are among the busiest in the country with a wide range of cases heard each week.
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This is the second time the MEN have revealed how crime gangs in Greater Manchester were able to game the system to receive money.
A drug gang was able to secure a £25,000 coronavirus recovery loan from the government, using a once-legitimate business to apply.
“Here, the most basic checks would have revealed the fraud,” Judge Cross said of the Hussain and Shafique case.
“The public is entitled to an explanation of how these loans were obtained.
“This explanation must be made public.
“I demand an explanation from the competent body within 14 days.”
A judge said Hussain and Shafique’s abuse of the system demonstrated “prime moral depravity”.
“At a time when real businesses were devastated by the pandemic, you who are affected by this aspect of this case have shown your complete disregard for others,” the judge told the couple.
Hussain was jailed for 15 years for his role in the gang, while Shafique was locked up for five years.
The gang exported stolen cars to the Middle East or dismantled them for parts.
More than 95 cars were stolen, including Range Rovers, Porsches and Mercedes, worth £3million.
Hussain was the director of a company called German Automotive 365 Ltd, a company selling and buying cars and providing maintenance services.
Prosecutors said the company never submitted a tax return and there was no record of the company’s VAT registration.
The company received a payment of £50,000 per week after making a claim.
Shafique, director of Merc Car Breakers Ltd, opened a Lloyds bank account a month after being appointed director.
He also received a loan of £50,000.
A few months later, Shafique received a second loan, this time for £45,000, after opening another bank account for his work as an IT sole trader.
Just five days after opening the bank account, he received the loan.
He then transferred the sum to his Merc Car Breakers bank account, then sent the majority to his personal account.
The government introduced the “bounce back” loan scheme in April 2020, at the height of the pandemic.
It was created to help small and medium-sized businesses borrow between £2,000 and up to 25% of their turnover.
The government guaranteed 100% of the loan, and there were no fees or interest to pay for the first year.
The scheme closed on March 31 last year.
A third-party review of the system found that while some risks could be mitigated, there remained a “very high” level of fraud risk.
The risk was caused by self-certification, multiple claims, lack of legitimate business activities and identity theft as well as organized crime.
The program was originally expected to cost between £18-26bn, but this was later increased to between £38-48bn.
Hussain, 44, of Tonge Moor Road, Bolton, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal, conspiracy to handle stolen property, conspiracy to export and fraud.
Ibraaz Shafique, 23, of Camberwell Street, Oldham, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to handle stolen property, conspiracy to export and fraud.