Cafe owner jailed over £400k Eat Out to Help Out fraud
A former west Yorkshire town councillor has been jailed for trying to steal more than £430,000 through the Government's Eat Out to Help Out scheme.
Mohammed Ikram, 36, of Springfield Court, Keighley, admitted he set up seven fake food outlets and used his own cafe to submit fraudulent claims between 7 August and 6 September 2020.
HMRC said it was the first conviction of its kind for Covid scheme fraud, and a further 70 people have been arrested.
Ikram used his business, Khan's Café and Chai Point in Keighley, and the fake firms to submit 19 fraudulent claims under the scheme worth a total of £434,073.
He received £189,208 in payments, but HMRC rejected further claims worth £244,865, and an investigation was launched.
Ikram was a member of Keighley Town Council until his resignation in 2022. He admitted stealing the money following an investigation by HMRC's Taxpayer Protection Taskforce.
Simon York, director of HMRC's Fraud Investigation Service, 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."
The Eat Out to Help Out scheme was introduced by then-chancellor Rishi Sunak to support the hospitality sector throughout August 2020. It allowed restaurants, cafés, pubs, and other food outlets to offer a 50% discount to customers and claim a reimbursement from HMRC for the same amount.
MP's were told last year that around £70m of the £850m paid out by the government during the scheme had been claimed fraudently or in error.
Ikram admitted cheating the public revenue, fraud by false representation and associated money laundering, at Bradford Crown Court in June 2022. He was jailed on 31 March for two-and-a-half years at the same court.
Action to recover the stolen money has been launched.