A FRAUDULENT assistant accountant stole more than £45,000 from her employer and transferred it into her husband’s bank account so they could fritter it away on clothes, a car and paying off his debts.

Burnley Crown Court heard how Blackburn couple Tazeem Afzal and Sufyan Ahmed Ismail Dadabhai spent the entire £45,267.53 taken from Lloyd Motor Group and have so far paid back nothing.

Judge Richard Gioserano said he would be failing in his public duty if he did not sentence both of them to prison.

Prosecuting, Barbara Webster said Afzal had worked for Lloyd Motor Group in Colne for eight years under accountant James Graham Sword but left in September 2018, six months before her criminality came to light.

Ms Webster said: “On April 19, 2018 Tazeem Afzal raised paperwork and a bank payment to pay £45,267.53 to BMW Financial Services on behalf of a customer.

“Lloyd Motor Group had agreed to settle this finance with BMW for the customer. Ms Afzal completed the paperwork, including the completion of a bank transfer request form. On this form bank details such as account number and sort code are required. As this is done on an almost daily basis all the accounting team are familiar with the account number and sort code for BMW. Ms Afzal filled out the form but added details of another bank account and sort code. The account belonged to her husband.”

The court heard the forms would normally have been checked by Mr Sword before Afzal filed them but on that particular day the defendant ‘got lucky’. Mr Sword had authorised 20 payments that day and because he expected the form Afzal had prepared to be correct, he didn’t check the account number and sort code on it, Ms Webster said.

Lancashire Telegraph:

Tazeem Afzal

The prosecutor said: “To cover what she had done, on April 19, 2018 Ms Afzal completed the paperwork with bank details for BMW, requesting the payment of £45,267.53 this time to be paid to BMW. She sent the paperwork to an accountant in Newcastle working for Lloyd Motor Group.

“It is usual practice for an assistant accountant to request authorisation from accountants there on site, which would have been Mr Sword. However there are occasions when the accountants were on leave or not on site to authorise paperwork, and in these circumstances the paperwork can be emailed to other accountants working for the group.

“As the paperwork sent by Ms Afzal appeared correct for the payment of £45,267.53 it was authorised by another accountant to be paid.

“The financial system has been checked and revealed Ms Afzal logged into the system on August 31, 2018. She then moved the amount of £45,267.53 to a larger account where it would not be easily identified and missed.”

The court heard that 25 days later Afzal resigned but it was only on March 7 that her offending came to light when an accountant noticed a £45,000 discrepancy in the large account.

Mr Sword and his colleagues checked all the paperwork and noticed the payment on April 7, 2018 had not been made to BMW but to an account belonging to Dadabhai. Ms Webster said Dadabhai had worked in the car valeting department until May 2017, but his account details were still on the system.

Lancashire Telegraph:

Lloyd Motor Group, Colne

Dadabhai’s bank statements were obtained and showed that his account had been in overdraft until £45,267.53 had been deposited into it.

On April 10, 2018, £39,000 was deposited from one of Dadabhai’s account to another, while a further transfer of £2,687 was made the following day.

During her police interview on September 21, Afzal initially said she couldn’t recall making the payment but later said she transferred the money so her husband could pay bills. She said she tried to sort it out but it had gone too far and claimed to be suffering anxiety at the time she stole the money.

During his interview, Dadabhai said his wife had come home and said she had done something she shouldn’t have. He said he used the money to pay off debts and buy a car.

Afzal, 33, and Dadabhai, 35, both of Fecitt Brow, Blackburn, pleaded guilty to concealing or disguising criminal property. Afzal also admitted committing fraud by false representation.

Lancashire Telegraph:

Sufyan Ahmed Ismail Dadabhai

Defending Afzal, James Heyworth said his client was suffering with her mental health at the time of the incident, as well as the pressure of looking after her husband who has many medical issues. He said his client was now working at Quba & Co Head Office in Stockport as an administrator, earning £14,000 and would be willing to start paying back what she stole.

Mr Heyworth said he would not be advancing in mitigation his client’s assertion to a probation officer that she had transferred the money “by mistake”.

He said: “She isn’t someone who will just take this on the chin. She is someone who understands and is horrified by what she has done. She is someone who is unlikely to do this again.”

Defending Dadabhai, Philip Holden said his client has physical ailments, including arthritis and migraines, which he takes morphine and codeine for.

Mr Holden said his client’s offending was motivated by greed and a desire to clear his debts but that Dadabhai had now gone to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau who have constructed a form of voluntary arrangement on his behalf, which he has signed.

Sentencing Afzal to 14 month imprisonment, Judge Gioserano said: “I would be failing in my public duty if I suspended the sentence. At the end of the day you made a conscious decision to take nearly £50,000 from your employer and spend it on other things such as cars and clothes.”

Dadabhai was jailed for eight months. They both face a proceeds of crime hearing on July 2.