Slough Borough Council last month secured a £300,000 confiscation order, its largest ever under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
The defendant, Qazi Mohammed Naeem Qureshi of Montem Lane, was given three months to pay the court the whole £300,000 or face up to three years and six months in jail.
The proceedings followed an investigation launched after Fiaz Akhtar of Wexham Road pleaded guilty in January 2012 to a planning offence relating to an outbuilding being used as a property without permission.
Akhtar’s guilty plea prompted a committal to Reading Crown Court for confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
An investigation was subsequently launched which, as it progressed, included the DVLA, the Department for Work and Pensions and the London Boroughs of Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea.
Slough said this uncovered a conspiracy with evidence of:
- undeclared rental income from outbuildings which did not have planning permission;
- creation of false identities with applications for fraudulent driving licences;
- fraudulent benefit claims from the council and DWP;
- fraudulent evasion of council tax;
- a fraudulent mortgage;
- false High Court application;
- high-value cash transfers to foreign jurisdictions.
Akhtar and three other people had criminal charges brought against them, including Qureshi who was a friend of hers and worked for the DVLA.
Another one of the defendants was Farzana Yasmin of Wellesley Road, who is the daughter of Mrs Akhtar.
On 17 November 2014 Qazi Qureshi pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud and a month later was sentenced to a 12-month community order and 250 hours' unpaid work.
Yasmin was also convicted of conspiracy to defraud and sentenced to a 12-month community order and 250 hours of unpaid work.
On 7 October 2015, Reading Crown Court imposed the confiscation order which specifies Qureshi obtained £350,000 from his part in the conspiracy and general criminal conduct, has assets including property in Montem Lane and Edgware Road in London and is now required to pay £300,000 within three months.
Qureshi has been dismissed from the DVLA after an investigation into his involvement with this case.
Slough said that a confiscation case against Akhtar was not being pursued due to time limitations. The extra criminal charges took the council over the time allowed for confiscation proceedings, it explained.
A criminal case against the fourth member of the group, Mansoor Khan from Basing Street, London, has been postponed as he has been deemed unfit to stand trial on mental health grounds.
Confiscation proceedings against Farzana Yasmin continue.
Matt Chugg, from Slough’s fraud investigation team, said: “This was an organised criminal group who set out to not only bypass the planning system, but gain money from illegally obtained benefits and false identities.
“Mr Qureshi was a substantial part of the conspiracy, the aim of which was to line their own pockets by defrauding a system designed to help those in most need.”
Cllr Sohail Munawar, commissioner for economic and social inclusion, said: “I hope this warns people that we are tenacious in tracking down fraudsters in Slough and not only bringing them to justice, but getting back the money they have gained from their criminal behaviour.”