Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Rotary Club Charity Fraudster Must Pay-Up Or Face Lock-Up

A new Rotary Club member organised a charity skydive and gala dinner to raise money for Great Ormond Street Hospital, but pocketed £7,500 for himself.

Now ex-stockbroker Akbar Siddiqi, 28, has been given a six-month deadline to get himself a job and return a chunk of the money or face going to prison.

He pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of position between April 27, 2014 and August 3, 2015 while a member of the Tooting club and named on a bank account to be used for charitable purposes.

Siddiqi, of Nutfield Road, Thornton Heath was ordered to return to Kingston-upon-Thames Crown Court having repaid at least £3,000 and quit drinking.

“You must get a job, even working in McDonald’s, absolutely anything, you’re an intelligent man,” Judge Judith Coello told him yesterday, deferring sentence.

Prosecutor Carol Summers said: “Nothing has been repaid whatsoever despite him having a substantial amount of time to repay that money and being interviewed twice by police.

“The club itself have had to pay it out of club funds.

“The defendant joined the club in 2014, having been a regular guest for some months and proposed a sky-dive and gala dinner fundraiser.”

Participants collected sponsorship for the sky-dive and tickets were expensive for the Central London dinner at the Connaught Rooms.

Both Siddiqi and Tooting club President Len Saker, who were the account signatories, promoted the sky-dive on Radio Jackie and £15,725 was made from both events.

However, Siddiqi secretly obtained a cash card and made 65 withdrawals totalling £4,105 and used the card to buy alcohol clothes, shoes, pay restaurant and hotel bills, a £638 internet dating site bill and top-up his Oyster card.

Two members even gifted him £250 awards they each received for services to the Rotary Club to cover his admin and time organising the events.

Immediately after the events Siddiqi stopped attending the club and constantly made excuses for not paying the money. 

The club’s treasurer described the fraud as “traumatic” and the cause of a “great deal of distress” saying he felt “let-down and cheated.”

Mr. Saker said: “My initial reaction was amazement and confusion. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”

Siddiqi’s lawyer Gudrun Fama told the court: “He’s a troubled young man and solved his problems with alcohol. Once he started drinking he couldn’t stop.”

Judge Coello told him: “I’m concerned none of this money has been paid back to the Rotary Club. You’ve buried your head in the sand, hoping it will all go away.

“If you do not meet these objectives you will go to prison, but it is better the Rotary Club get their money back and are not out of pocket due to your thoroughly dishonest actions.

“You should be ashamed of yourself.”

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