A cafe owner from West Yorkshire is the first person to be convicted of Covid scheme fraud by HMRC after trying to steal more than £430,000 through the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme.
Mohammed Ikram has been jailed for two-and-a-half years after using his business, Khan’s Café and Chai Point in Keighley, as well as seven fake food outlets he set up using hijacked company details, to submit 19 fraudulent claims worth a total of £434,073, between 7th August and 6th September 2020.
A total of £189,208 was paid out although further claims for £244,865 were rejected by HMRC.
Mohammed, also previously a member of Keighley Town Council until his resignation in 2022, admitted stealing the money from the Covid-19 support schemes, following an investigation by HM Revenue and Custom’s (HMRC) Taxpayer Protection Taskforce.
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 which 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 a reimbursement from HMRC for the same amount.
Action to recover the stolen money has been launched.