A Manchester hotel owner has been jailed for making ‘completely fabricated’ claims for the Eat Out to Help Out scheme
Shahid Naseeb Ahmed, 42, tried to falsely claim around £138,840 from the government’s Eat Out To Help Out Scheme and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).
He made multiple claims for the Merchants Hotel in in Manchester, between April 2020 and August 2021. He was the sole director of the hotel at the time.
He falsely claimed £61,165 from Eat Out to Help Out and a further £51,708 for furlough payments. After he had received payments of £112,873, HMRC became suspicious and his claims were blocked.
HMRC investigators, part of Operation Egon, discovered that Ahmed did not serve food in his hotel at all. The only ‘catering’ was tea and coffee-making facilities in the hotel bedrooms. Yet he claimed for thousands of diners over the period under investigation.
Ahmed also duplicated his claims by submitting information for two separate hotels - Merchants Hotel Ltd and Merchants MCR – when in fact there was only one hotel.
He also abused the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme by fraudulently claiming for full-time staff who were part-time, claiming that they were paid more than they were. He also said the hotel had remained closed for the period of the claims when, in fact, it had reopened for part of the period.
Enquiries with a number of banks confirmed that Ahmed was the sole recipient of the monies wrongly paid.
He was arrested on 20 October 2021 and taken to Bury Police Station. He confirmed he was the sole director of the Merchants Hotel and that he has owned it since 2006. He admitted overclaiming on the job retention scheme and that his claims on the Eat Out to Help Scheme were ‘completely fabricated’.
Ahmed was jailed for 40 months at Manchester Crown Court on 9 November. This followed a trial where he pleaded guilty to 25 counts of fraud on 1 August.
Senior crown court prosecutor Maqsood Khan, of CPS Mersey Cheshire’s fraud unit, said: ‘Shahid Ahmed cynically took advantage of two government schemes designed to help businesses survive a national crisis.
‘He submitted fraudulent claim after fraudulent claim over many months – his fraud was systematic, deliberate and planned. He tried several ways to get as much money as he could.
‘There are lots of demands on the public purse and these schemes were designed to help genuine claimants.
‘People like Shahid Ahmed undermine the system and take money that is badly needed elsewhere.’