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A lawyer has been imprisoned for defrauding the Legal Aid Agency

|News, Fraud and economic crime

A barrister and part-time immigration tribunal judge has been jailed for defrauding the Legal Aid Agency, along with other lawyers, by falsely claiming defence legal costs.

Rasib Ghaffar, 54, conspired to inflate legal fees and work claimed for in 2011 and 2012 has been sentenced to three years imprisonment at Southwark Crown Court.

Ghaffar conspired with Gazi Khan, 55, legal clerk; Azar Khan, 52, solicitor advocate; and Joseph Kyeremeh, 73, solicitor, to defraud the taxpayer.  

This prosecution follows a substantial police investigation into fraudulent claims for Defendants’ Costs Orders submitted to the Legal Aid Agency National Taxing Team on behalf of acquitted defendants in criminal proceedings in Crown Courts. Defendants who pay their own legal costs can claim some of this back from the taxpayer after they are acquitted. This is called a Defendant’s Costs Order (DCO).  

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 evidence in this case focussed on four claims, arising from the legal costs of four defendants who were acquitted.  These defendants were then able to apply for the legal costs of their defence to be paid by the taxpayer. These four claims totalled £1,856,584, of which £469,477 (25%) was paid out.

Gazi Khan, the leader in this criminal operation 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 1 July 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 claimed relating to 650 hours work, at a value of over £176,000, with £60,000 coming from public funds.

The defendant in this trial, 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.  

Malcolm McHaffie of the CPS 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.”

The CPS is committed to continue to work alongside law enforcement and investigatory authorities to bring fraudsters who target the public sector to justice.

Notes to editors

  • Malcolm McHaffie, Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor for the CPS Serious Economic, Organised Crime and International Directorate
  • Rasib Ghaffar, (DOB: 09/10/1969) was convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and sentenced to three years imprisonment
  • Gazi Khan (DOB: 07/07/1968) was convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and sentenced to five years imprisonment
  • Azar Khan, (DOB: 06/12/1971) was convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and sentenced to two years imprisonment suspended for two years
  • Joseph Kyeremeh (DOB: 24/12/1950) was convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and sentenced to a two year suspended sentence 

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