A former councilor who tried to steal over £430,000 via the government eat out to help out scheme has been jailed. Mohammed Ikram, from Keighley, tried to steal £434,000 by making 19 fraudulent claims over a four-week period between August and September 2020.

He eat out to help out scheme, devised by the then Chancellor Rishi Sunakallowed food outlets to offer a 50 percent discount in order to boost the hospitality sector as COVID-19 The restrictions were eased during the summer of 2020.

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said this was the first fraud conviction associated with the scheme.

Ikram admitted to cheating public revenue, fraud for false representation and associated money laundering at a hearing last June. He was jailed Friday for two years and six months.

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Prosecutor Timothy Jacobs told Bradford Crown Court that the 36-year-old made 19 false claims totaling £434,073 for eight different eating establishments that were “totally fictitious”.

HMRC said Ikram was a member of Keighley City Council until resigning in 2022.

Mr Jacobs told the court that eight of the 19 claims were paid by the government, with just over £189,000 paid into bank accounts of Ikram’s wife. The court heard how the other 11 claims were rejected.

The court was told that more than half of the money paid has already been recovered by HMRC and that’s just under £93,000.

Jacobs said Ikram signed up for the scheme and used his own name and phone number for each claim. The IP address of the computer used was later traced to Ikram’s home in Springfield Court, Keighley.

Ikram and his wife were later arrested on June 16, 2021 following an investigation by HMRCThe Taxpayer Protection Task Force’s and the case against his wife were later dropped.

Mitigating, Nick Worsley, said Ikram had run up debts of more than £75,000 in connection with “running a nursing home in Manchester” and “stupidly” viewed the scheme “as a way of solving his immediate financial difficulties”.

Worsley told the court that Ikram was “a man of good character who has contributed a lot to the community in a very positive way.” He added that the offense was “an aberration.”

Assistant Circuit Judge Timothy Clayson told him: “Even if I accept your contention that some of this money was obtained in order to cover financial obligations, given the sums involved, it is clear that the vast majority was motivated by greed.

director of the fraud research service in HMRC Simon York said: “This was blatant fraud by someone in 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 gone to pay for vital public services and help those who needed it most.”

Mr. York added that other COVID-19-related fraud cases were making their way through the criminal justice system.

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