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

Part-time immigration judge Rasib Ghaffar, 45; together with legal clerk Gazi Khan, 55; solicitor advocate Azar Khan, 52; and solicitor Joseph Kyeremeh, 73, conspired to inflate legal fees and work claimed for in 2011 and 2012.

All four men were convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation.

The court heard that fraudulent claims for defendant’s costs orders (DCO), where acquitted defendants who pay their own legal costs can claim some of this back from the taxpayer, were submitted to the Legal Aid Agency national taxing team on behalf of acquitted defendants in criminal proceedings in Crown courts.

Defendants instructed solicitors and counsel to represent them privately and, following their acquittals, successfully applied for DCOs, which allowed their instructed solicitors to claim payments of their own costs and disbursements.

The case focused on four claims, arising from the legal costs of four acquitted defendants. Of £1,856,584 claimed, £469,477 (25%) was paid out.

Ghaffar, who had denied the charge against him, was responsible for a £184,000 fee note in his name relating to more than 350 hours of work. The evidence showed he had been instructed only seven days before the conclusion of the case.

Gazi Khan, described as the ‘leader in this criminal operation’ by the CPS, worked as a clerk, providing legal costs services to several firms. Azar Khan was the principal partner in City Law Solicitors, and started work on the case, resulting in the claims on 1 July 2011, some 10 weeks before it concluded, and claimed over 500 hours of work at a total of more than £162,000.

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

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

Deputy crown prosecutor for the CPS serious economic, organised crime and international directorate Malcolm McHaffie, 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.

‘The Metropolitan Police and the CPS worked closely together to bring these corrupt legal professionals to justice and are now facing the consequences of their wrongdoing. The CPS will now commence confiscation proceedings in order to reclaim the defendants’ proceeds derived from the fraud.’

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.
Law Gazzette

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