A former Tower Hamlets councillor who was sent to prison for housing fraud has been ordered to hand over £180,000 or face being back behind bars.
Shahed Ali was originally sentenced to five months in prison in 2016 after pleading guilty to fraud at Snaresbrook Crown Court.
He served half of his sentence before being released but a court has now ruled he risks going back to prison unless he pays back the money he obtained illegally.
A Confiscation Order handed down in recent weeks requires him to pay £110,000 to Tower Hamlets Council and the government for money he made as a result of his fraud. He has also been ordered to pay the council’s legal costs of £70,000.
Failure to pay will see him brought back to court where he could face a further custodial sentence.
In 2009, Ali applied for social housing after claiming to be sleeping on a sofa at a relative's house. He was subsequently given a one bedroom council flat in Christian Street off Brick Lane.
However, he failed to disclose that in fact he owned a private property at Manchester Road, E14, and had also occupied a property at Cannon Street Road, in the Whitechapel ward he represented.
Council officers became suspicious after Ali applied for a single person’s discount on council tax for the flat, while he was also registered to pay council tax at another property.
The council’s Audit and Counter Fraud Team began an investigation which included a thorough examination of records held by the local authority and those available from external sources. The investigation was specifically led and conducted by social housing fraud specialists with years of experience in investigating these types of serious and complex allegations.
Investigators found that in addition to the private property he owned in Tower Hamlets, Ali also had two other properties in Frinton on Sea, one of which included a curry house.
He was charged with fraudulently failing to disclose his ownership of two residential properties between October 2009 and February 2016, contrary to sections 1 and 3 of the Fraud Act 2006.
After admitting the offences at court, Ali was sentenced to five months in prison and was also disqualified from holding office as a councillor and barred from standing again for five years.
Will Tuckley, Chief Executive of Tower Hamlets Council, said: “This is a quite staggering case of fraud. We are pleased that our detailed investigations have paid off, not just in terms of a prison sentence but also in clawing back public money.
“Benefits and council housing are there to help our most vulnerable residents. Fraudsters should know that we have specialist investigators looking into files every day and we will not hesitate to prosecute.”
Last year the council recovered 54 social housing properties from people making false claims or illegally sub-letting.
Tower Hamlets is the fasting growing place in the UK. More new homes are built in the borough than anywhere in the country and, as a result, the population has increased by 19 per cent over the past seven years to 304,000.
Currently, almost 20,000 people are on the council’s waiting list.
Do you know someone who is breaking the law and making others pay?
Housing fraud can be reported anonymously by calling the Tower Hamlets Fraud Hotline on 0800 528 0294 or by emailing email@example.com.
Posted on Tuesday 10th July 2018