Dodgy Judges & Barristers Finally Sentenced & Exposed in £12.6M Legal Aid Scam

Date: 2024-02-16
For over a decade, ConfidentialAccess has been persistently sounding the alarm, yet their warnings fell on deaf ears at the Ministry of Justice. Tim Rustem emerges as a prominent figure in the realm of insider Legal Aid fraud and always gets away with it with his buddy Shahid Rashid, a stain on the legal profession. Three UK Judges and a handful of Barristers now stand convicted of orchestrating a £12.6 million scam in collusion with fellow legal professionals.

Among the perpetrators are part-time immigration judge Rasib Ghaffar, aged 45, alongside legal clerk Gazi Khan, aged 55, solicitor advocate Azar Khan, aged 52, and solicitor Joseph Kyeremeh, aged 73. Their conspiracy revolved around inflating legal fees and falsely claiming work in 2011 and 2012, a deceitful endeavor ultimately leading to their conviction for conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation.

The modus operandi involved submitting fraudulent claims for defendant’s costs orders (DCO) to the Legal Aid Agency national taxing team on behalf of acquitted defendants in criminal proceedings. These acquitted defendants, having privately retained legal representation, were eligible to reclaim some of their legal costs from public funds upon their exoneration.

The case centered on four specific claims, stemming from the legal costs of four acquitted defendants. Out of the £1,856,584 fraudulently claimed, £469,477 (25%) was disbursed. Ghaffar, despite vehemently denying the allegations, was found responsible for a £184,000 fee note, purportedly for over 350 hours of work, despite being engaged only a week before the case's conclusion.

Gazi Khan, deemed the linchpin of the operation by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), operated as a clerk, facilitating legal cost services across multiple firms. Azar Khan, as the principal partner in City Law Solicitors, initiated the fraudulent claims well before the case's conclusion, claiming over 500 hours of fictitious work amounting to more than £162,000.

The firm's claim further falsified the timing of their purported work, including a period when they were not legally instructed to represent any defendant, resulting in a payment of £93,000 from the Legal Aid Agency. Similarly, Kyeremeh, also a principal partner in the same firm, inflated his legal work, claiming over £176,000 for 650 hours of work, with £60,000 sourced from public funds.

Deputy Crown Prosecutor Malcolm McHaffie of the CPS serious economic, organized crime, and international directorate condemned the defendants' actions, stating they "fraudulently took advantage of a statutory scheme designed to help acquitted defendants with their genuinely incurred legal costs." He underscored the collaborative effort between the Metropolitan Police and the CPS in bringing these corrupt legal practitioners to justice.

Azar Khan and Kyeremeh received a two-year suspended prison sentence in December 2021, while Gazi Khan was sentenced to five years' imprisonment in 2023. Ghaffar awaits sentencing later this year, facing the consequences of his involvement in this egregious fraud.

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