A former councillor who attempted to steal more than £430,000 through the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme has been jailed.
It is the first conviction for COVID scheme fraud by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
The Treasury-backed measure allowed food businesses to offer customers a 50% discount in an attempt to get them to go out for a meal when coronavirus restrictions were relaxed.
Ikram’s fake claims totalled £434,073 for eight different food outlets, Bradford Crown Court heard.
Six of the businesses were either “entirely fictitious” or legitimate companies he had no connection with, prosecutor Timothy Jacobs said.
Two were food outlets he had some connection with, but not a “current one”, the court heard.
Ikram, 36, was a member of Keighley Town Council until his resignation in 2022, HMRC said.
Mr Jacobs told the court that eight of the 19 claims were paid by the government, with just over £189,000 being paid into bank accounts held by Ikram’s wife.
The other 11 claims
More than half the money paid out has been recovered by HMRC, but just under £93,000 is outstanding, the court was told.
Mr Jacobs said Ikram registered with the scheme and used his own name and telephone number for each of his claims, with the IP address used later traced to his home in Springfield Court, Keighley, West Yorkshire.
Thirteen of the claims related to either fake food outlets or real ones Ikram had no link with, including one address that was actually a barbers’ shop, one that was a hotel that had closed down, and a community cafe that only operated every third Sunday, the court was told.
Ikram ‘motivated by greed’
Mr Jacobs said five of the claims related to Khan’s Cafe, which Ikram had been associated with until March 2020, “but his involvement had ceased by the time the claims were made”.
The defendant and his wife were arrested in June 2021.
The case against his wife was later dropped.
Ikram admitted cheating the public revenue, fraud by false representation and associated money laundering at a hearing last June.
Deputy Circuit Judge Timothy Clayson told him: “Even if I accept your assertion that some of this money was obtained with a view to covering financial obligations, given the sums involved it’s apparent the vast majority of this was motivated by greed.”