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Authorities jail British restaurateur for £50,000 COVID loan fraud

Courtesy: Geo News

A UK-based curry restaurant owner has been sentenced to 18 months imprisonment for fraud involving a £50,000 COVID-19 bounceback loan.

To secure the maximum loan amount in May 2020, Syed Hussain dishonestly claimed that his restaurant’s turnover was £200,000. The actual turnover, as per filed accounts, was just £3,000.

Additionally, the restaurateur was already under a suspended sentence for violating fire regulations, posing a risk to people living above the establishment, as he failed to provide adequate escape routes and fire alarms.

Hussain, despite the circumstances, successfully obtained the bounceback loan, which the government had introduced to support struggling businesses during the spread of the coronavirus, particularly restaurants that were forced to close.

Once the money was deposited into his business account by the bank, he promptly transferred it to his personal account and dissolved the company, keeping the lender in the dark about his actions.

The case was then heard at Derby Crown Court, and the prosecution emphasised the severity of his deceitful actions. With many industries hit hard by the pandemic, including restaurants, the loan scheme was a lifeline for struggling businesses, making Hussain’s act of fraud even more reprehensible.

“These loans were brought in at a time of a national emergency. In his interview when he was asked about the £200,000 (turnover claim he put forward) he said ‘I think it was a mistake’. There was not the opportunity to challenge the figures on the application form and there is no evidence any of the money has been paid back,” said Elisabeth Evans, who is prosecuting the case.

Hussain, therefore, admitted guilt for fraud and a Companies Act offense. His lawyer, Sham Uddin, explained he is the eldest son in the family and cares for his mute uncle who lives with him.

“He did attend the interview, he did make admissions and he accepted what he did was wrong. He was 20 years old at the time and he was too immature to run a business,” he said.

The lawyer added that Hussain’s business was struggling after which he decided to apply for the bounceback loan. “He totally accepts what he did was wrong and what he did was fraudulent.”

A Proceeds of Crime Act hearing is scheduled for January, where money and assets may be seized from Hussain, as stated by Evans.

1- Header image: Restaurateur Syed Hussain (left) and a photo of his restaurant Moja in Derbyshire. — Derby Telegraph

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