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Baron boss jailed after £2.7m fraud

SHIRAZ Kassam, whose Baron Hotels group collapsed in 1991 owing £140m, was last week sentenced to three and a half years in jail for his part in defrauding BCCI out of £2.7m.

Mr Kassam, who has personal liabilities of £83m, was jailed by Southwark Crown Court, in south London, despite a desperate plea that he would make every effort to pay back his creditors if he was spared a prison term.

The court heard how Mr Kassam, who recently underwent major heart surgery, had already paid off £148,000, and was now earning £120,000 a year with an unnamed property consultancy.

He recently played a part in the purchase of the unfinished Slaley Hall golf and leisure complex near Hexham, in Northumberland, and a number of other deals are believed to be in the pipeline.

But Judge Michael Harris described his offer as “too little, too late”, and refused to accept that the fraud, which involved falsifying the cost of renovation work on the Spider’s Web hotel in Watford, was a case of “technical dishonesty”.

“You enlisted the service of a tame, gullible and, in the end, dishonest architect,” said Judge Harris. “Between you, you managed to draw down over £2.5m to which you were not entitled.

“Like many companies of the last decade your company went bust when the property market collapsed. But unlike others who suffered that fate, you decided to keep your company going longer than you should have done by resorting to dishonesty.”

Mr Kassam’s defence counsel argued that his client’s dishonesty was a desperate attempt to save his company, and was not done for personal gain. But Judge Harris countered: “He was doing it to maintain the standard of life he had been accustomed to.”

In addition to being jailed, Mr Kassam was disqualified from being a company director for five years.

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