In total 40 people were involved in the £5.3 million ‘cash-for-crash’ swindle, the full scale of which was finally revealed following a mammoth five-year police investigation.
The intricate ‘web of deceit’ was spun out of Swift Accident and Credit Hire, based in Leagrave Road, Luton, using a supply of drivers who included family members and people with long-standing connections with the conspirators.
In some cases road collisions were engineered to involve unsuspecting motorists. In others, claims were made about ‘accidents’ which were entirely fictitious.
The scams operated in different ways and involved collisions being either induced, staged, faked or exaggerated, and the gang used land at Long Meadow Farm, Chalton, to store the damaged vehicles.
Bedfordshire Police’s Operation Exhort investigation also resulted in the uncovering of a mortgage fraud.
On Thursday, three of the last four defendants were found guilty at Luton Crown Court – meaning the legal barriers to publishing details of the extraordinary case were finally lifted.
Bedfordshire Police and industry partner the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) found the criminals hailed from a variety of professions including the legal, medical and motor trades.
It took three years for all the defendants to appear at court at separate hearings, culminating in this week’s convictions.
Andrew Richer, Senior Investigating Officer and Assistant Chief Constable of Bedfordshire Police, said: “In 2006 Luton was a known hotspot for offences, also known as ‘cash for crash’, but in 2011 that is no longer the case.
“The case had grown considerably in size and complexity since the initial lines of investigation were pursued in May 2006.
“This was a calculated and systematic fraud perpetrated on numerous victims.
“This kind of fraud substantially inflates insurance premiums for every honest driver in the country.
“I am pleased that working with our industry partner, the IFB, we have been able to bring offenders to justice and confiscate substantial assets and money which were the proceeds of crime.”
---The ‘crash for cash’ scam which saw millions made from faked, induced, staged or exaggerated road accidents involved the sons of a mosque Imam.
The father of Saraj Qazi and Hafiz Chishti, who was one of the gang’s ringleaders, is Imam Aziz, of Jamia Islamia Ghousia Mosque, in Westbourne Road, Luton.
Chishti ran part of the illegal operation out of an accident management company in Leagrave Road. Qazi set up bank accounts and rented premises in Luton and Reading.
Prosecutor David Farrell QC said: “Swift was a vehicle for dishonesty.
We have not come across a single claim which was not dishonest at least in part.” The motor fraud investigation also led to the uncovering of a mortgage scam. Chishti obtained money transfers totalling £659,395 by giving false earnings details. The civil engineering student claimed to be a self-employed builder earning £70,000 a year.
Qazi obtained £570,845 for four mortgages, while Majid Hussain, 34, of Wychwood Avenue, Luton, got £652,595 for three mortgages.
Judge Michael Kay QC told Chishti and Qazi they had brought shame on their family, saying: “You have shown yourselves to be thoroughly dishonest - motivated by greed in pursuit of easy money. You were driven by ambition to get rich quick.”
It was said in court that the brothers attended the mosque, but their father denied this.
Imam Aziz said: “I would like to make it very clear my sons had no connection to the centre. I had no connection to the investigation and the centre was not involved in any way.
“My sons have repaid their debt to society and the centre was never involved.” Two other sets of brothers – Majid Hussain and Wajid Hussain, of Westbourne Road, Luton, and Kamsan Mahmood and Istafa Hussain, of Lincoln Road, Luton – attended the mosque.
The police operation, codenamed Exhort, was launched in 2006 with the help of the Insurance Fraud Bureau. Homes in Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Berkshire were raided in November of that year after experts analysed suspicious claims.
Thursday saw the case’s final three convictions at Luton Crown Court. Peter Charlery, 45, and Mahmood, 42, both used Long Meadow Farm, Chalton, as a storage site for the damaged vehicles.
They were both found guilty of conspiracy to defraud following a seven week trial.
Istafa Hussain, 35, of Lincoln Road, Luton, was also found guilty of the same charge.
All were remanded in custody for sentencing on April 27. Irtiza Fazal, 40, also of Lincoln Road, was found not guilty by the jury.
The earlier court proceedings could not be published for legal reasons until this week and for many of the defendants the other cases have gone on for so long they are now out of prison.
The entire investigation resulted in 33 defendants pleading guilty to a variety of offences in connection with the £5.3 million insurance fraud. The lengthy hearings also netted lawyers for the legally-aided defendants hundreds of thousands of pounds.
The remaining eight pleaded not guilty at two separate trials – seven have been convicted and one acquitted. A further eight people were cautioned for their involvement in the crime.
Insurance Fraud Bureau director Glen Marr said: “On behalf of the industry, we would like to acknowledge and thank Bedfordshire Police for their sterling work on this operation.
“We will continue to find, pursue and expose criminals involved in organised insurance fraud. The message is loud and clear – seek to defraud an insurer and you risk serious repercussions, to include prosecution and seizure of assets.”
Anyone who is concerned they may have been the victim of an insurance fraud can call the free and confidential Cheatline on 0800 328 2550.
How the scam worked
THE road ‘accidents’ were brought about in a number of different ways. They were:
Induced – an innocent third party hits a car that stops suddenly.
Staged – drivers in both vehicles were party to the scam.
Faked – they did not happen at all, but a claim was made.
Exaggerated – with claims made for loss or damage that did not occur. Inflated personal injury claims were also made.
Long Meadow Farm, in Chalton, north of Luton, was used to store the damaged vehicles.
The car insurance fraud centred on accident management company Swift Accident and Credit hire, based in Leagrave Road, Luton.
Hafiz Chishti was one of the principal parties at Swift. He used different names and was seen at Long Meadow Farm.
His brother, Saraj Qazi, set up bank accounts and rented premises at Luton and Reading. Vehicle assessor Christopher Fennessy was used, in most cases to make fake accident reports.
The gang used a supply of drivers – some were family members and others had longstanding connections with the conspirators.
Roll of dishonour
Christopher Fennessy, 38, of St Albans – jailed for 12
months in December 2009.
Hafiz Chishti, 35, of Enderby Road, Luton – jailed for two
and a half years in December 2009.
Saraj Qazi, 30, of Westbourne Road, Luton – jailed for five
and a half years in December 2009 – reduced to five years
Majid Hussain, 34, of Wychwood Avenue, Luton – jailed for
five and a half years in January 2010.
Gulustaan Bibi, 32, of Wychwood Avenue, Luton – jailed
for eight weeks, suspended for a year, and a two month
curfew in February 2010.
Michael Bain, who was born in June 1962, of Waller
Avenue, Luton – died before his case came to trial.
Bibi, Chishti, Qazi and Hussain were also sentenced for
mortgage fraud and received concurrent sentences.
Mohammed Adnan, 33, of Reading – 12 month
community order and 150 hours unpaid work in October
Mohammed H Khan, 32, of Reading – 12 month
community order and 200 hours unpaid work in February
Mohammed N Khan, 28, of Reading – 12 month
community order and 150 hours unpaid work in March
Khalid Mehmood, 32, of Reading – jailed for 16 weeks,
suspended for 12 months, and 200 hours unpaid work in
Raja Kamran, 30, of Early, in Berkshire – jailed for 40
weeks, suspended for two years, 150 hours unpaid work
and a three month curfew in March 2009.
Khawaja Babar, 32, of Reading – jailed for nine months in
Amjad Mahmood, 33, of Reading – jailed for four months
in March 2010.
Munawar Khan, 34, of Grantham Road, Luton – jailed for
five months in June 2010.
Shahid Iqbal, 29, of Tomlinson Avenue, Luton – 12 month
community order and 150 hours unpaid work in April 2010.
Imran Khan, 30, of Claremont Road, Luton – jailed for
three months in June 2010.
Arfan Zaman, 31, of Wolston Court, Luton – jailed for 12
weeks, suspended for 12 months, and 150 hours unpaid
work in April 2010.
Naveed Ahmed, 28, of Atherstone Road, Luton – jailed for
four months, suspended for 12 months, but was
re-sentenced to three months jail for breaching the
suspended sentence in October 2008.
Naeem Hussain, 32, of Culverhouse Road, Luton – jailed
for 16 weeks, suspended for 12 months, 150 hours unpaid
work and £300 costs in October 2008.
Wajid Hussain, 32, of Westbourne Road, Luton – pleaded
not guilty but was convicted by a jury and jailed for 30
months. He admitted a mortgage fraud and received a four
month concurrent sentence in May 2010.
Rohal Miah, 33, of Reading – jailed for eight weeks,
suspended for 12 months, 60 hours unpaid work and
£300 costs in February 2010.
Zia Qazi, 33, of Westbourne Road, Luton – 12 month
conditional discharge in October 2008.
Manjit Atwal, 30, of Letchworth – 12 month
community order and 150 hours unpaid work in
Faryad Dad, 33, of Hitchin – jailed for four months in
Jayant Gandesha, 50, of Edgware – 12 month
community order and 150 hours unpaid work in
Edward Hughes, 41, of Julius Gardens, Luton –
12 month community order, 250 hours unpaid work,
£300 costs and £2,700 compensation in June 2009.
Changaiz Ishaq, 31, of Westbourne Road, Luton –
12 month community order, 250 hours unpaid work
and £300 costs in June 2009.
Tabassum Hussain, 31, of Lincoln Road, Luton –
12 month community order, 150 hours unpaid work
and £300 costs in October 2008
Muhammed Usman, 38, of Westbourne Road, Luton
– jailed for 18 weeks, suspended for 12 months, and 80
hours unpaid work in February 2010.
Zab Anwar, 41, of Hayes – jailed for six months in
Amir Chaudry, 33, of Hemel Hempstead – jailed for
16 weeks, suspended for 12 months, and a two month
curfew. He was re-sentenced to 16 weeks jail for
breaching the suspended sentence in July 2010.
Avinash Pancha, 33, of Felstead Way, Luton – pleaded
guilty and received a 12 month community order and
200 hours unpaid work in September 2010.
Nafisa Qazi, 29, of Westbourne Road, Luton –
pleaded guilty to mortgage fraud and received a
12 month conditional discharge in April 2009.
Tanzeel Qazi, 34, of Hutton Close, Luton – pleaded
guilty to mortgage fraud and received a 12 month
community order and 200 hours unpaid work in
Kamran Khan, 27, of Grantham Road, Luton – pleaded
guilty to mortgage fraud and received four months,
suspended for 12 months, and 80 hours unpaid work in
Kamsan Mahmood, 42, of Long Meadow Farm,
Chalton – denied the mortgage fraud, but was
convicted in November 2009. He was also convicted of
the ‘cash for crash’ charge this week.
Istafa Hussain, 35, of Lincoln Road, Luton – denied
‘cash for crash’ and was convicted this week.
Peter Charlery, 45, of Long Meadow Farm, Chalton –
denied ‘cash for crash’ and was also convicted by the
Mahmood, Hussain and Charlery will be sentenced
on April 27.
Further proceedings will be held to confiscate their
assets under the Proceeds of Crime legislation.
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