Hajj travel firm boss jailed for 14 months for fraud
The director of a Hajj travel firm was found guilty of fraud and sentenced to 14 months’ imprisonment at Leicester Crown Court yesterday (31 January 2017).
Birmingham City Council brought the prosecution following a joint operation between Birmingham Trading Standards and the City of London Police, in Tameside, Greater Manchester on 20 April 2015, assisted by Tameside Trading Standards.
Babur Hussain (53), of Lees Road, Ashton-under-Lyne – who at the time managed Ashton Hajj & Umra Limited based at 58 Oldham Road, Ashton-under-Lyne, Tameside – was convicted of four offences under the Fraud Act 2006.
Sabir Raza (56), of Lees Road, Ashton-under-Lyne – a sales person with the firm – was also found guilty of four offences under the Fraud Act 2006, received an 11-month sentence, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to do 180 hours’ unpaid work. Both Hussain and Raza pleaded not guilty to offences at an earlier hearing.
The offences related to claims that the firm’s flights and packages were financially protected under the ATOL scheme, misleading customers about the quality of accommodation and return flights back to the UK.
Both Hussain and Raza were also disqualified as acting as a director (or being involved in the management of a company) for five years from 31 January 2017.
The company, which also trades as Ashton Travel, was also found guilty of four offences under the Fraud Act 2006. It will be sentenced at a later date, following confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Councillor Barbara Dring, Chair of Birmingham City Council’s Licensing and Public Protection Committee, said: “Our Trading Standards team has led the way nationally on cracking down on unscrupulous Hajj tour operators, and they are here to protect Hajj pilgrims before, during and after their pilgrimage.
“Birmingham City Council has successfully prosecuted such operators for a number of years, and we are finding more operators like these who are trading nationally through the internet or advertising.
“I hope this case reinforces our message that we will continue to investigate and prosecute rogue traders exploiting pilgrims going to Mecca. We want pilgrims to know that we take their concerns seriously, understand their problems and will work with our partners to tackle this area of criminality.”
Detective Sergeant Kevin Ives, who works for the City of London Police, said: “The City of London Police has actively run Hajj fraud awareness and enforcement campaigns for several years as this under reported crime is known to have a real and devastating effect on victims.
“Yesterday’s result is an example of some excellent multi-agency work; Birmingham Trading Standards were able to successfully pursue this prosecution, following a joint arrest operation facilitated by the City of London Police. These offenders have now been brought to justice and the result should help to reassure victims that law enforcement takes this crime seriously.”
Ashton Hajj & Umra Limited will be sentenced at a later date, following confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act, to enable officers to further investigate its finances, along with those of Hussain and Raza. Compensation for their victims will be considered at that hearing.
Notes to editors:
Anyone who has concerns about Hajj travel packages or thinks they may have been a victim of Hajj fraud can contact:
- Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06 or visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer
- Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or visit www.actionfraud.police.uk
How to protect yourself and your loved ones from Hajj fraudsters
If you are booking a flight-based package make sure your travel company is ATOL (Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing) protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
A legitimate ATOL logo will have a four or five digit number and can be checked online at: www.caa.co.uk/checkanatol
ATOL protection is the Government backed financial protection scheme and means if your travel company collapses while you are in Saudi Arabia, you will be repatriated at no further cost. The CAA will also do everything possible to ensure you can finish and enjoy your holiday without disruption.