Abdul Rauf convicted fraudster and resident of Govan
In 1993, Wheeler and dealer Abdul Rauf signed a 25-year-lease on the Brougham Street, Tollcross Post Office, Edinburgh owned by Post Office Counters Ltd. The annual rent was £9,200.
He was jailed in 1996 for four years for forging signatures on and cashing in 779 Department of Social Security payment orders to a value of £58,264 between June 1993 and July 1994. He did so by forging signatures on the payment orders and cashing them.
Rauf used cash gathered from his fraudulent activities to purchase a flat in Dalkeith Road, for £28,100 in 1996 , value £200,000 at 2010, which provided him with rental income of £10,000 per annuum.
He also purchased a large house in Glasgow’s Springkell Avenue, near Maxwell Park, Glasgow, for £93,000. The luxury home in Glasgow’s southside is valued at around £850,000 in 2022.
He went on to purchase a second flat at Lochrin Place, Tollcross, Edinburgh, near to his post office business for £14,000 in November 1994, which he sold on to his wife Irfana. Mrs Rauf sold the Lochrin Place flat in 1998, for £43,000. It is not known if she had rented out the flat or lived in it herself.
Lord Sutherland jailed Rauf for 4 years and told him: “This case discloses a very serious breach of trust which appears to have been carried on quite deliberately for a period of over a year and involved a very substantial amount of money.”
He was convicted in 2008 on fraud charges for a second time for claiming £80,000 income support from the Department of Work and Pensions while receiving up to £10,000 annual rent from the property in Edinburgh’s Dalkeith Road which he failed to declare. In his defence he told Social Security investigators that the ownership of the flat had “slipped his mind”.
11 Feb 2010: Nicola Sturgeon MSP for Govan
Aware that a custodial sentence for benefit fraud would be the outcome of his trial, Scotland’s Deputy First Minister wrote a letter of support for Abdul Rauf, one of her constituents in which she asked the court to consider “alternatives to a custodial sentence”. Defence advocate Donald Findlay produced the letter of support from Nicola Sturgeon.
In it she wrote: “Mr Rauf has accepted his wrong doing and has experienced the consequences of it through the effect on his health, the distress caused to his family and the impact on his standing in his community. He has already paid £27,000 of the outstanding balance to the DWP and will settle the remainder by selling property. He and his wife are anxious that a custodial sentence may be imposed by the court and of the effect this will have on Mr Rauf’s health and the impact on family life. I would appeal to the court to take the points raised here into account and consider alternatives to a custodial sentence.”
Sheriff Alan MacKenzie told Rauf that a jail term was “at the forefront” of his mind but said he would defer sentence for three months and released him on bail. He added: “I will take into account all that has been said on your behalf, including a letter from a member of the Scottish Parliament.”
11 Feb 2010: Holyrood MSP’s castigate Sturgeon
Sturgeon faced calls to resign after writing a letter in support of a man who could be jailed for benefit fraud. She responded saying she was “duty-bound” as a constituency MSP to make “reasonable representations” on behalf of 60-year-old Abdul Rauf who defrauded more than £80,000 from the Department for Work and Pensions.
But ever loyal First Minister Alex Salmond defended her decision to ask a court to consider alternatives to custody in the case, saying: “This is not a matter connected with her role as Deputy First Minister but, let me be absolutely clear, I absolutely back her.”
Bill Aitken, Conservative justice spokesman, said: “It is extraordinary to describe a second conviction for fraud as a ‘mistake’. Either she didn’t care about his previous fraud conviction or she didn’t check. Either would be unbelievable and a grave lapse of judgement. Ms Sturgeon trained as a solicitor, is an MSP and the deputy first minister of Scotland. Her judgement in this matter is completely flawed and she has serious questions to answer.”
Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray said: “If the facts of the case are as they appear and Nicola Sturgeon made such an appalling error of judgement she must resign. Last week she was selling access to raise funds for the SNP. Now she is prepared to give a character reference for a convicted fraudster.”
12 Feb 2010: Glasgow’s Asians deny knowing Abdul Rauf
Rauf, the man at the heart of the benefits fraud scandal, was described by Nicola Sturgeon in her letter of support as being “heavily involved” in his community but Glasgow’s prominent Asians, said yesterday they had never heard of him.
Hanzala Malik, a senior councillor with responsibility for developing overseas links, said he did not know of Rauf or any work that he had carried out. Bashir Maan, a community leader, also said he had no knowledge of Rauf. A spokesman for the Central Mosque, the biggest in Scotland, said he did not worship there and had not been to their Islamic Centre, and he was not known at three mosques close to his home in the Pollokshields area.
16 Feb 2010: Extraordinary developments
It was disclosed that Sturgeon’s plea to the sheriff on behalf of Abdul Rauf was dated the day after businessman Khalid Javid paid £2,000 for a meal in the MSPs’ restaurant at Holyrood with the Deputy First minister. The February 2 auction raised money for Osama Saeed, the SNP Westminster candidate in Glasgow Central.
Labour’s business manager Paul Martin last night said: “this latest revelation adds to the suspicion that there was more to the story. Nicola Sturgeon has failed to answer the question as to why she took up this man’s case in the way she did. She has also failed to tell us who introduced her to Mr Rauf.”
Ms Sturgeon insisted she had acted “reasonably” and admitted she knew about Rauf’s previous conviction. She denied knowing Rauf socially, but conceded she “may have attended the same social events in the constituency”.
In her letter, the MSP stated she was aware of the case in July 2008 when her constituent came to her, saying: “Mr Rauf has accepted his wrongdoing and has experienced the consequences of it through the effect on his health, the distress caused to his family and the impact on his standing in his community. He has already paid £27,000 of the outstanding balance to the DWP and will settle the remainder by selling property. He and his wife are anxious that a custodial sentence may be imposed by the court and of the effect this will have on Mr Rauf’s health and the impact on family life. I would appeal to the court to consider alternatives to a custodial sentence.”
Rauf said in a statement to the press later that he did not know Sturgeon and he had not asked her to intervene on his behalf with a letter to the court.
Sturgeon – a statement of contrition
In a statement to MSPs a few weeks later, Sturgeon said: “I do believe in certain respects the letter could, and should, have been written differently. I regret the use of the word ‘mistake’ to describe Mr Rauf’s offence. On reflection, I should not have asked the court to consider alternatives to custody. Having drawn the court’s attention to Mr Rauf’s personal circumstances, I should have left it there. I should not have gone on to ask the court to specifically consider alternatives to custody. On reflection, that was a request more suited to my former occupation as a solicitor than to my current job as an MSP. In short, I assisted a constituent in good faith and for what I considered to be the right reasons, but in doing so I did get some things wrong and for that I am sorry.”
12 May 2010: Jailed
Abdul Rauf, 60 the convicted fraudster who found himself at the centre of a political storm involving Scotland’s deputy first minister has been jailed for two years.
May 2010: Health Secretary Sturgeon issues a “zero tolerance” warning to fraudsters
Only four months after she pleaded with a Sherriff not to send convicted benefits conman Abdul Rauf to prison she said this:
“Anyone contemplating fraud against the NHS should be aware that they will be caught, and if they are caught, they will have to face the consequences of their fraudulent actions. Fraudsters in any walk of life are opportunistic, tend to be fairly entrepreneurial, and will take the opportunity to exploit any weakness in the organisation they target. Let me be clear today about what is a zero-tolerance approach to fraud and to fraudsters. Fraud perpetrated against the NHS is, in my view, a fraud perpetrated against each and every one of us and that is why it is so important to combat it. So it does make sense for all of us, in our own ways and in our own roles, to act as counter-fraud champions.”