Fake baker sentenced for £200k covid grant fraud

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A Luton based fraudster stole more than £200,000 through false applications for Covid-19 support by pretending to be Greggs bakery

Rais Kayani, from Luton, was handed a 16-month sentence, suspended for 18 months, after fraudulently claiming loans and grants available to businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Over a single week between 4 May and 9 May 2020, Kayani made claims through the small business grant fund, administered by local authorities to help struggling businesses during the pandemic.

Pretending to be the well-known bakers Greggs, Kayani applied for the fund at St Helen’s, Thurrock and Rochdale councils, and defrauded a total of £195,000.

The frauds were perpetrated by unknown individuals impersonating genuine ratepayers, but the requested payments were all transferred to the bank account of RAK Traders and Services Ltd – where Kayani was the sole director.

Following an investigation by the National Investigation Service (NATIS), bank statements from RAK’s accounts showed that £195,000 had been received from the three local authorities, and £100,000 had been transferred to a US dollar account.

On 13 May 2020, $46,500 (£36,593) was then sent from the US dollar account to an account in Hong Kong.

Councillor Neil Emmott, leader of Rochdale Borough Council, said: ‘It’s staggering and sickening to think that at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, when thousands of lives were being lost, people were thinking of ways to line their pockets with taxpayers’ money.

‘It is only due to the actions of our staff and our bank that we managed to recover every penny from these unscrupulous fraudsters.

‘I hope that all of this gang are eventually brought to justice and that all of the money stolen can be recovered somehow.’

Appearing at Southwark Crown Court this week, Kayani pleaded guilty to a single count of entering into a money laundering arrangement and was sentenced to 16 months’ imprisonment, suspended for 18 months.

He was also given 100 hours of unpaid work, alongside an additional compensation order of £6,000.

Ben Reid of the CPS said: ‘At a time of national emergency, Kayani was the cynical beneficiary of a series of false applications to local authorities in different parts of the country from where his business operated.

‘Having dishonestly benefitted from the fraudulent applications for the Small Business Grant Fund, he transferred the proceeds overseas. We have already recovered £155,000 of taxpayers’ money and will now seek a confiscation order for the remaining funds.’

Michael Dineen, deputy director head of crime operations at NATIS said: ‘We are very pleased Mr Kayani has accepted responsibility for his actions and entered guilty pleas to the charges against him.

‘The teams of the NIS, as always have worked with the Police to ensure those that have defrauded the Small Business Grant Scheme, as well as other schemes, are brought to justice and the money they took is restored to the public purse as quickly as possible.

If you have questions about how to undertake an investigation into potential misconduct, visit BrAInbox today where you can find answers to questions like Do I have to let an employee bring a companion to a disciplinary investigation meeting?

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