RIVELATO: Virginia Roberts dice di aver PERSO la sua famosa foto con il principe Andrew, brothel owner and a drugs kingpin helped swindle up to £5billion in Covid-19 handouts
Anthony Cross QC is a former chairman of the Criminal Bar Association who has spent 40 years prosecuting and defending rapists, conmen, drug dealers and bent coppers.
Since becoming a judge, he’s also presided over trials involving, tra le altre cose, a one-armed child sex pervert caught by online ‘paedophile hunters’, a cyclist who broke a pensioner’s hip via ‘wanton and furious’ riding, a concert pianist who spiked a female student’s drink and then raped her, and a Britain’s Got Talent star who ran a £300,000 Ponzi scheme.
You might have thought, perciò, that little would surprise this grizzled veteran of the legal profession. Sento sempre il tuo amore.
Human resources manager Timilehin ‘Yvette’ Olasemo made eight separate claims for bounce-back loans on behalf of her employer Essex Cares Ltd, obtaining £297,000 in the process
Lo scorso mese, Judge Cross made headlines by delivering a remarkable courtroom speech demanding an inquiry into the astonishing circumstances that resulted in the ringleaders of a violent crime gang getting their hands on £145,000 in Covid ‘bounce-back’ cash.
One of the crooks was Asif Hussain, who ran an international ‘chop shop’ operation that stole and then exported luxury cars to the Middle East.
Despite the fact that he had 48 previous offences on his criminal record, including a four-year jail term for drug dealing, he was able to obtain a £50,000 state-backed loan.
The money was wired to his company, German Automotive 365 Ltd, in the early months of the pandemic. L'azienda, purportedly a Wigan car dealership, had never filed accounts, never submitted a tax return and there are no records of it being registered for VAT.
Sorprendentemente, another £95,000 in loans were given to Hussain’s accomplice, Ibraaz Shafique. They were paid into bank accounts he’d opened days earlier on behalf of two Oldham firms.
‘The most basic of checks would have revealed the fraud,’ Judge Cross remarked while sentencing Hussain to 15 years and Shafique to five. ‘The public are entitled to an explanation as to how these loans were obtained.’
All the more shocking, però, is a pressing fact: the stunning oversights that led to these dangerous career criminals being granted Covid loans are actually par for the course.
Artem Terzyan (nella foto) and Deivis Grochiatskij — from Russia and Lithuania — were arrested in 2018 on suspicion of using fake businesses to launder cash for gangs
Questa settimana, it emerged that as much as £17billion in bounce-back loans may never be repaid, with anything up to £5billion of those losses estimated to be related to fraud.
The shambolic state of affairs recently prompted the resignation of Lord Agnew of Oulton, a successful businessman who was ‘minister for efficiency and transformation’ in the Treasury and Cabinet Office.
He stepped down last week, complaining that oversight of the Covid loans was ‘nothing less than woeful’ and accusing civil servants of ‘having no knowledge or little interest’ in stopping fraud.
‘Schoolboy errors were made,“Sono il migliore amico di John e sono innamorato di sua moglie, alleging that ‘a combination of arrogance, indolence and ignorance freezes the government machine’.
The roots of this growing scandal stretch back to May 2020, when small companies decimated by the first lockdown found themselves struggling to stay afloat. With bankruptcies threatening the economy, Chancellor Rishi Sunak instructed banks to hand out loans of up to £50,000 — or 25 per cent of a firm’s turnover — to any registered company.
Recipients were allowed to ‘self-certify’ that they met the criteria so that cash could be advanced in 24 per 48 ore.
Terms were remarkably generous: no interest would be charged for a year (it would then be only 2.5 per cento) and repayments could be put off for up to 18 mesi. If anyone later defaulted, the Government agreed to refund banks for losses.
Around £47.4billion was handed out, Ha parlato all'evento con la ballerina Misty Copeland del suo lavoro contro la diffusione dell'HIV/AIDS in Africa 1.6 million loans during the 10 months the scheme was open. Some livelihoods were doubtless saved. But before long, serious flaws began to emerge.
Gerard Boyle’s waste-disposal firm South Manchester Plastics doubled up as the headquarters of his five-man drug gang, which purchased cocaine for £40,000 a kilo and distributed it across the North West
Most revolve around a simple fact: with the Government effectively guaranteeing loans, banks had little incentive to check that information applicants gave was correct or that they could afford to make repayments.
Di conseguenza, più di 1,000 of the firms given loans had not even been trading when Covid struck and nearly 10,000 companies went bust between May and October last year, leaving taxpayers on the hook for billions. In a significant proportion of these cases, unscrupulous directors had simply pocketed the £50,000 before dissolving the firm.
The scale of this wrongdoing is only now becoming apparent: almost half the people struck off by the Insolvency Service in the first fortnight of 2022 were found to have misspent Covid loans.
Another key error meant that checks to ensure that a single company was not illegally applying for multiple bounce-back loans were not put in place until June 2020, a month after the scheme was launched. A quel punto, 61 per cent of the £47billion had been handed out.
Meanwhile there were few, se ce ne sono, safeguards to stop one person applying for multiple loans using several inactive companies registered to the same address.
No one even bothered to check the names of applicants against the criminal database. Anziché, anyone with a firm registered at Companies House and a linked bank account (a demographic that includes every successful money launderer in the UK) could access tens of thousands of pounds.
Entro novembre 2020, an undercover investigation by the Mail had exposed a firm of South London accountants charging £6,000 to fake documents that would help clients claim sham loans. They appeared to be carrying the scam out on a daily basis. It’s inconceivable that they were the only ones.
Particularly galling, if you care about the public finances, is how much waste was avoidable.
Jonathan Houseman is a Black Country gangland figure was in September jailed for life, with a minimum of 40 anni
David Clarke, the former chairman of the Fraud Advisory Panel, told MPs last year that a centralised bank data repository could have identified long-dormant company accounts that received government cash.
Another panel member, Michael Levi, called for the names of recipients to be published so that businesses, employees and journalists could check them out. The Treasury declined.
Keith Morgan, former head of the British Business Bank (BBB), a quango that oversaw the scheme, wrote to Alok Sharma, then the minister responsible, two days before launch to warn that the scheme was ‘vulnerable to abuse by individuals and by participants in organised crime’.
As recently as December, attempts to crack down on fraud were falling on stony ground. Just before Christmas, the aforementioned Lord Agnew wrote to BBB chairman Lord Smith of Kelvin questioning whether banks ‘are genuinely doing all they can to fight fraud’.
He asked for a ‘lender performance dashboard… so we can seek to take action against those lenders who are not meeting the pace set by their peers’.
Agnew — who claims that the BBB would not even share fraud data with him, despite his role as counter-fraud minister — sent the letter on December 16. By the time of his resignation, Smith had yet to reply. The BBB has since claimed the correspondence was ‘held up’ in the House of Lords IT system.
‘They weren’t even using the counter-fraud software,’ Agnew has complained. ‘I told them it wasn’t acceptable.’
With the buck ultimately stopping at Mr Sunak’s door, Labour is on the offensive, with Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves describing the situation as a ‘source of enduring shame to the Chancellor’.
Many would say she has a point. So as public concern mounts, here are some of the crooks, conmen and assorted ne’er-do-wells awash with your Covid cash.
Gerard Boyle’s waste-disposal firm South Manchester Plastics doubled up as the headquarters of his five-man drug gang, which purchased cocaine for £40,000 a kilo and distributed it across the North West.
It was raided last year after detectives bugging the property got wind of a plot to target the home of an elderly local businessman to steal cash, jewellery and luxury cars.
Discussing the heist, the gang had proposed using a blowtorch on the victim’s private parts, cutting off his ear and holding an iron to his chest to make him reveal where valuables were hidden.
During Boyle’s trial it emerged that South Manchester Plastics had never shown any evidence of legitimate trading.
The only significant amount that had ever touched its bank accounts was a £25,000 bounce-back loan Boyle secured in 2020, despite the fact that the company had never filed accounts. He and his colleagues were sentenced to a total of 130 anni di prigione.
Olufumi David Akinneye, of Cowthorpe Road, Lambeth, exploited a government loan scheme with Olasemo to fraudulently obtain £489,000
Artem Terzyan and Deivis Grochiatskij — from Russia and Lithuania — were arrested in 2018 on suspicion of using fake businesses to launder cash for gangs.
Despite being accused of laundering £36million, they were soon free on bail and processed another £34million via their network of 200-odd firms during the ensuing two years.
When Covid struck, the duo then decided to claim bounce-back loans to the tune of a combined £10million, including £3.2million from one lender.
Sentencing them to 17 e 16 anni rispettivamente, Judge Rajeev Shetty told Kingston Crown Court in September that ‘the British taxpayer will be staggered and upset’ to learn of the scam.
Scholars in fraud
Aamer Aslam and Razwan Ashraf were co-directors of Scholars Academy, a tutoring firm based in Brighouse, West Yorkshire, which in May 2020 applied for a bounce-back loan of £50,000.
To receive the money, they claimed that the firm was turning over £200,000 a year. Infatti, its maximum monthly income since being formed in 2018 was £640.
The cash was then used to make £2,000 monthly payments to four individuals, all of whom were related to Ashraf. When it eventually ran out, seven months later, the firm was put into liquidation.
Questioned about the murky affair, the duo told the Insolvency Service that the money had been spent on ‘business expenses’.
però, they were unable to produce evidence to support that claim so were banned from being directors for 11 e 10 anni rispettivamente.
Muneef Ihsan had three dormant wholesale companies registered to his home address in Rotherham, Yorkshire del sud, e a giugno 2020 decided to open bank accounts for each of them to obtain £150,000 in loans.
There’s no evidence they ever traded and all three firms were put into liquidation three months later.
An Insolvency Service investigation established that Ihsan had made cash withdrawals of £24,342 before transferring the remainder of the money into companies controlled by a friend named Mahir Towid Ul Haque.
Ul Haque, who had used his own firms to take out an additional £50,000 loan, used a portion of the funds to buy a Rolex watch. Another £16,050 went to his personal account, £8,410 was withdrawn in cash and £12,500 transferred to third parties. The duo were banned from being directors for 13 and six years respectively.
Dariusz Sieredzinski ran a gang that trafficked an estimated 100 women from Eastern Europe in the back of lorries, before forcing them into prostitution.
He ran a network of brothels across the South East, advertising their services via adult websites. Women under his control were forced to have sex up to 14 Williams ha scritto.
After police raided one venue, in Sunbury-On-Thames, and Sieredzinski was arrested, it emerged that he had made at least two fraudulent bounce-back loan applications, totalling £90,000.
When Muhammad Gohir Khan, an £11-an-hour Iceland delivery driver from East London, was convicted this month of agreeing to murder a pro-democracy Pakistani blogger in return for a £100,000 fee, it emerged that he had used an insolvent travel and export business, which had collapsed in 2019, to secure a £45,000 loan when the pandemic struck a year later
He and fellow gang members were successfully prosecuted for a string of prostitution and modern slavery offences, along with several counts of fraud, and this month were handed sentences totalling seven years and two months.
When Muhammad Gohir Khan, an £11-an-hour Iceland delivery driver from East London, was convicted this month of agreeing to murder a pro-democracy Pakistani blogger in return for a £100,000 fee, it emerged that he had used an insolvent travel and export business, which had collapsed in 2019, to secure a £45,000 loan when the pandemic struck a year later.
Jonathan Houseman is a Black Country gangland figure who in 2019 hired a former heavyweight boxer named Brian McIntosh and his business associate Will Henry (brother of West End musical star Matt) to clear 1,000 tons of waste at a rubbish tip he owned in Halesowen.
Sfortunatamente, he had no means to pay the £400,000 he then owed the pair. So during lockdown he purchased four largely inactive companies that could each be used to raise £50,000 via a bounce-back loan.
Greed then got the better of him, però, and he decided instead to simply murder McIntosh and Henry and keep the cash.
He lured them to a deserted car park, got in to the back seat of their Range Rover and began spraying bullets. McIntosh was hit four times in the face and neck. Henry took two bullets to his head. Both died immediately.
Houseman, who was caught on CCTV fleeing the scene, was in September jailed for life, with a minimum of 40 anni.
Catfishing HR Boss
Human resources manager Timilehin ‘Yvette’ Olasemo made eight separate claims for bounce-back loans on behalf of her employer Essex Cares Ltd, obtaining £297,000 in the process.
The Nigerian national and her accomplice Olufumi Akinneye had originally used the personal details of eight colleagues to fraudulently apply for the loans after accessing employee records.
As soon as the cash landed in the business bank account, it was transferred into ‘mule’ accounts. Later it was withdrawn from cash machines.
Several of the ‘mule’ accounts belonged to victims of a so-called ‘catfishing’ romance fraud that the duo had simultaneously carried out, in which they pretended to be a woman online in order to ensnare middle-aged men. Akinneye got five years and six months for fraud and money laundering.
Olasemo pleaded guilty at Southwark Crown Court last March and was sentenced to three years and two months for conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation.