Chowdhury Muyeed, 51, and Asma Khanam, 47, to be sentenced on April 8 Essex couple set up fake companies to pay wages to Bangladeshi migrants ‘Sophisticated’ rouse allowed the migrants to claim housing benefit Accomplice Habibur Rahman, 36, also faces jail for similar con Judge Nigel Peters, QC, said it was ‘housing benefit fraud on a huge scale’.
A married couple who ran a dole scam which involved flying hundreds of Bangladeshi migrants into Britain for a day to claim £1.6million in handouts are facing jail.
Chowdhury Muyeed, 51, and Asma Khanam, 47, both from Ilford, Essex, set up the companies Families for Survival UK and Age Shelter UK Ltd to pay wages to Italian passport-holders.
Migrants based in Italy were supplied with sham addresses and flown into the UK through Stansted to attend Job Centre interviews, before getting their hands on National Insurance numbers.
One of those addresses, on Mile End Road in east London, was so busy that migrants spilled out onto the street in front of an Italian restaurant below.
Their jobs allowed them to claim housing benefit – £578,000 from the London Borough of Redbridge and more than £600,000 from Tower Hamlets.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was also stung for over £420,000.
Accomplice Habibur Rahman, 36, from Mile End, was also in court, for using his businesses, including Haiba Laiba Ltd and Crystal Jobs Ltd, to run a similar con.
A jury of four men and eight women took nine hours to reach majority verdicts in respect of each of the three defendants.
They found Muyeed, an accountant, guilty of conspiring to dishonestly produce false statements of information while Khanam and Rahman were found guilty of furnishing documents of information.
Judge Nigel Peters, QC, said: ‘Khanam has been convicted of being involved with her husband in a housing benefit fraud on a huge scale.
‘They have been convicted of serious offences and, in the male defendants’ cases, they both face substantial sentences of imprisonment.’
Prosecutor Mark Himsworth had told jurors: ‘In about July of 2014, housing benefit administrators at the London Borough of Redbridge became suspicious when they noticed that large numbers of claims, which were both well-prepared and well-evidenced and had unusual similarities, began to be received.’
‘Operation Rhino’ ensued and after trawling through benefits records it emerged that 139 claimants out of the initial 300 deemed suspicious had shared common addresses and workplaces.
Investigation: The probe by police, council and Government investigators prompted a raid on one flat (pictured) above a restaurant in Bow, east London, used as an address by 400 claimants
The applicants also shared the same Bangladeshi ethnicity and Italian nationality allowing them to legitimately work in the UK and claim benefits.
The three crooks operated a system of ‘circular payments’ where sums would be transferred to the dummy organisations before being paid back as ‘wages’.
The sophisticated ruse typically documented 24 hours’ work per week at the minimum wage which both entitled the migrants to benefits and ensured the tax office were unaware of the con.
Muyeed told the jury he had created ‘dummy pay slips’ in the past but insisted this was only done for ‘training purposes’.
He also confessed to having advised clients what benefits are available to European Economic Area migrants and was later presented with documents found by DWP investigators during a search of offices at 501 Olympic House, Ilford.
These including registration papers of the bogus organisations which named former colleagues as directors or trustees – while they remained oblivious to their existence.
When confronted with the signatures of Chantell Witten and Lina Gyllensten, Muyeed bizarrely claimed to have been introduced to strangers with the same name years later.
Claiming the scam went on behind his back, Muyeed denied thinking he could ‘pull the wool over the jury’s eyes’ by designing ‘a system that was sophisticated enough to avoid detection’.
Muyeed and Khanam denied alternate counts of conspiracy to produce or furnish documents of information and dishonestly. Rahman denied the same allegations.
Muyeed was convicted of his part in the conspiracy whereas Khanam and Rahman were found guilty of the substantive offence of producing or furnishing documents of information.
Khanam was bailed to appear at Snaresbrook Crown Court for sentence on April 8, with her two co-defendants remanded into custody ahead of sentence on the same date.