• Friday, April 12, 2024


Part-time immigration judge convicted of defrauding Legal Aid Agency

Rasib Gafffar along with legal clerk Gazi Khan, solicitor advocate Azar Khan, and solicitor Joseph Kyeremeh were involved in falsely claiming defence legal costs


By: Shajil Kumar

A barrister and part-time immigration tribunal judge has been convicted of defrauding the Legal Aid Agency, along with other legal professionals, in a £1.8 million scam, according to media reports.

The barrister, Rasib Ghaffar, 54, along with Gazi Khan, 55, legal clerk; Azar Khan, 52, solicitor advocate, and Joseph Kyeremeh, 73, solicitor been found guilty of the defrauding of Legal Aid Agency by falsely claiming defence legal costs.

The police had earlier investigated allegations of fraudulent claims for Defendants’ Costs Orders submitted to the Legal Aid Agency.

Defendants who pay their legal costs can claim some of this back from the taxpayer after they are acquitted. This is called a Defendant’s Costs Order.

In this case, defendants instructed solicitors and counsel to represent them privately in criminal proceedings and, following their acquittals, successfully applied to the courts for DCOs.

These orders enabled their instructed solicitors to claim payments of their own costs and disbursements (which included counsel’s agreed fees) from central government funds.

The case focused on four claims, arising from the legal costs of four acquitted defendants. Of £1,856,584 claimed, £469,477 was paid out.

Ghaffar, was responsible for a fee note in his name for £184,000, relating to over 350 hours of work – yet the evidence shows he had only been instructed seven days before the conclusion of the case.

The leader of this conspiracy, Gazi Khan, worked as a clerk to Shadid Rashid, providing legal costs services to several solicitor firms. He has now been convicted of fraud offences relating to fraudulent defence cost orders.

Azar Khan was the principal partner in City Law Solicitors Ltd and according to evidence gathered by the prosecution, the firm started work on the case resulting in the claims on July 1 2011, about 10 weeks before it concluded, yet claimed to have carried out over 500 hours work, costing over £162,000.

The firm’s claim also falsely backdated the work it had said it had done to include a long period when it was not instructed to represent any defendant, resulting in a payment of £93,000 from the taxpayer.

Joseph Kyeremeh was a principal partner in the same law firm. His legal work resulted in a claim relating to 650 hours of work, at a value of over £176,000, with £60,000 coming from public funds.

Malcolm McHaffie, deputy crown prosecutor for the CPS Serious Economic, Organised Crime and International Directorate, said “These convicted defendants defrauded the Legal Aid Agency for their own purposes. They fraudulently took advantage of a statutory scheme which was designed to help acquitted defendants with their genuinely incurred legal costs.”

Azar Khan and Kyeremeh were sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for two years, in December 2021, and Gazi Khan was sentenced to five years in prison in 2023. Ghaffar will be sentenced later this year.

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