March 7, 2014
A community stalwart with an MBE has been spared jail after claiming more than £23,000 of taxpayers’ money by lying about his savings.
Former magistrate Rahmat Ali Raja, 75, dishonestly claimed pension credits and council tax reductions for 10 years – despite, at one point, having more than £102,000 across nine bank accounts.
But the retired charity director, who was also a local councillor in Pendle, Lancashire, was yesterday spared jail for his crimes.
Speaking after the hearing, Raja, originally from Gujarat, Pakistan, said: ‘I am very sorry. I made a mistake.’
Raja, who has already paid the amounts back in full, was handed a 24-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months.
He pleaded guilty to two counts of dishonestly failing to disclose information to make a gain for self, and one count of dishonestly making a false statement to obtain a benefit.
Preston Magistrates’ Court heard that, between October 2003 and September 2013, Raja told the Department for Work and Pensions he was retired and had just £5,601 in savings.
He wrongly claimed £11,379 in the process.
Raja also failed to declare his real savings to Pendle Council in November 2004, allowing him to wrongly claim £11,898 between October 2003 and March 2013.
John Abbott, prosecuting, told the court how Raja would receive the payments into his Halifax bank account via automatic credit transfer.
He said: ‘Evidence has now become available that he had £83,000 on October 6, 2003 which was not disclosed at the time. Had the true facts been known, there would have been an effect on his benefits.’