Tribunal judge jailed for defrauding the Legal Aid Agency

Barrister is one of four legal professionals convicted over ramped-up defence costs
Southwark Crown Court Photo: Google Maps

By Jim Dunton

27 Jun 2024

A barrister and part-time immigration tribunal judge has been jailed for defrauding the Legal Aid Agency with fake legal costs.

Rasib Ghaffar, aged 54, submitted inflated legal fees for work in 2011 and 2012 and was sentenced to three years imprisonment at Southwark Crown Court.

The Crown Prosecution Service said Ghaffar had conspired with 55-year-old legal clerk Gazi Khan, 52-year-old solicitor advocate Azar Khan, and 73-year-old solicitor Joseph Kyeremeh to defraud the taxpayer.

Ghaffar had pleaded not-guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit fraud by misrepresentation but was found guilty by a jury in February.

Gazi Khan was described by the CPS as the "leader" of the fraud operation, providing legal costs services to several solicitor firms. He was earlier sentenced to five years for offences related to fraudulent defence-cost orders.

Azar Khan and Kyeremeh were both principal partners at City Law Solicitors Ltd. Both have received two-year suspended sentences after being convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation.

The convictions resulted from four claims for Defendants' Costs Orders submitted to the Legal Aid Agency, which is an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice. DCOs allow defendants who pay their own legal costs to claim some of the money back from the taxpayer if they are acquitted.

Evidence in Ghaffar's case looked at claims totalling £1.85m, of which £469,477 was paid out. The court heard that a fee note submitted in his name had sought £184,000 relating to more than 350 hours of work, however evidence showed he had only been instructed on the case in question seven days before it concluded.

Azar Khan and Kyeremeh's claims sought payment for more than 1,100 hours of work on the case in question and resulted in a combined payment of £153,000 from the taxpayer. The CPS said City Law Solicitors had "falsely backdated" the work it had done in the case to include a long period when it was not instructed to represent any defendant.

After Ghaffar's sentencing, Malcolm McHaffie of the CPS said the four convicted men had fraudulently taken advantage of a statutory scheme designed to help people with genuinely-incurred legal costs.

"The Metropolitan Police and the CPS worked closely together to bring these corrupt legal professionals to justice," he said.

"The CPS will now commence confiscation proceedings in order to reclaim the defendants’ proceeds derived from the fraud."

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