A former Keighley town councillor has been jailed for trying to steal more than £430,000 through the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme.
Mohammed Ikram, 36, of Springfield Court, Keighley, admitted stealing money from the Covid-19 support schemes, following an investigation by HM Revenue and Custom’s (HMRC) Taxpayer Protection Taskforce.
He used his own café and takeaway business as well as several fake food outlets to submit fraudulent claims under the scheme, and pocketed thousands of pounds in payments that he was not entitled to.
Mohammed Ikram was also previously a member of Keighley Town Council until his resignation in 2022.
Simon York, Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said; “This was a blatant fraud by somebody who held a position of trust and responsibility.
“These schemes were designed to support individuals and businesses during a terribly difficult period. Instead, Mohammed Ikram stole money that should have been paying for vital public services and helping those who needed it most.
“This is the first conviction of Covid scheme fraud by HMRC, but we have arrested 70 people and have a number of cases working their way through the criminal justice system. So far, we have prevented the payment of, or recovered more than £1.2 billion, with compliance activity still ongoing.”
The Eat Out to Help Out scheme was introduced to support the hospitality sector throughout August 2020. It enabled restaurants, cafés, pubs, and other food outlets to offer a discount to customers and obtain reimbursement from HMRC for the same amount.
Mohammed Ikram used his business Khan’s Café and Chai Point, in Keighley, and also set up seven fake food outlets using hijacked company details, to submit 20 fraudulent claims under the scheme, worth a total of £434,073, between 7 August and 6 September 2020.
He received £189,208 in payments, but further claims, totalling £244,865, were rejected by HMRC and an investigation was launched.
He admitted cheating the public revenue, fraud by false representation, and associated money laundering, at Bradford Crown Court in June 2022, and was jailed today for two-and-a-half years at the same court.
Action to recover the stolen money has been launched.