A judge has demanded an investigation after two members of an organised crime gang were able to successfully apply for £145,000 in Covid ‘bounce back’ loans.

Asif Hussain, the ringleader of an international ‘chop shop’ ring which exported stolen Range Rovers and other expensive cars to Dubai, was able to secure £50,000 in funding offered by the Government to help businesses struggling during the pandemic.

Another gang member, Ibraaz Shafique, was able to receive two huge loans, firstly for £50,000 and then for £45,000. The maximum loan available was £50,000.

Manchester Crown Court heard both of them had prior criminal convictions. 

Judge Anthony Cross QC claimed that “the most basic checks” would have shown the fraud, and demanded an explanation within two weeks.

Asif Hussain was granted £50,000 in Covid bounce back loans, despite having 48 previous offences on his record

Ibraaz Shafique was granted two loans: £45,000 and £50,000

Left to right: Asif Hussain (who received £50,000 in Covid bounce back loans) and Ibraaz Shafique (who got two separate loans, together worth £95,000)

Judge said that it was a ‘defiant belief’ that Hussain was granted funding, despite having 48 prior offences and being previously imprisoned for 4 years for dealing in drugs.

A drugs gang was able to obtain a £25,000 coronavirus recovery loan from the government, using a once-legitimate business to apply.

Judge Cross said about Hussain’s and Shafique’s case, “Here the most basic checks would have revealed that fraud.”

“The public has the right to be informed about how these loans were obtained.

The gang, who called themselves 'The Company', stole more than 95 cars, including Range Rovers, Porsches and Mercedes, worth £3 million

The gang, who called themselves ‘The Company’, stole more than 95 cars, including Range Rovers, Porsches and Mercedes, worth £3 million

The gang would send stolen luxury vehicles to be stripped for parts at 'chop shops' in Bury, Oldham and Wigan

This gang sent stolen luxury cars to be traded at “chop shops” in Oldham, Wigan and Bury.

“This explanation must be made publicly. Please provide me with an explanation within fourteen days.

He said that Hussain’s and Shafique’s abuse of the system was a form of moral depravity.

Judge Cross stated that: “At an time when genuine business were being decimated by the pandemic,” those of you concerned with this aspect of the case displayed your total contempt for other people.

They either exported the stolen vehicles to the Middle East or took them apart for their parts.

More than 95 cars were stolen, including Range Rovers, Porsches and Mercedes, worth £3 million.

Hussain claimed the bounce back loan for a firm called German Automotive 365 Ltd, a business selling and buying cars and offering maintenance. Despite never having submitted a tax return or registered for VAT, the £50,000 loan was extended to the firm

Hussain applied for the bounceback loan to a company called German Automotive 365 Ltd. This is a vehicle that sells and buys cars as well as offers maintenance. Despite never having submitted a tax return or registered for VAT, the £50,000 loan was extended to the firm

The group, referred to as “The Company”, sent 11 stolen vehicles in eleven shipping containers over a 12-month period to Middle East contacts.

According to Manchester Evening News, officers recovered three out of 11 shipping containers containing stolen Range Rovers or stolen parts.     

They would steal luxury cars and send them to be taken for parts in ‘chop shops’ in Oldham, Wigan, Bury, Wigan. 

Some vehicles were taken in the middle of the night, while owners slept. In others they were taken away by unidentified assailants.

Hussain was the director of a firm called German Automotive 365 Ltd, a business selling and buying cars and offering maintenance.

How fraudsters stole £5bn from bounce back loan scheme

Last month, a report revealed that anti-fraud efforts were “too late” in the Covid Bounce Back Loan Scheme by Chancellor Rishi Sunak – leading to eye-watering loss for taxpayers.

The National Audit Office said that by the time the Government implemented any anti-fraud measures in June last year – a month after the scheme was launched – more than £28billion had already been paid out.   

The watchdog stated that other measures were not implemented until September 2020 because Ministers had their sights set on obtaining loans to help businesses in need during the pandemic.

In its report, the NAO also said that around £17billion may never be paid back, with £5billion lost to fraud and error.

Under Mr Sunak’s scheme, firms could borrow up to £50,000 interest-free for 12 months, with the loan guaranteed by the Government. The scheme was vital for small companies, and also allowed fraudsters to disappear without being paid back.

Prosecutors stated that the firm did not submit a tax returns and had no evidence of being VAT registered.

The company received a £50,000 payment a week after making an application. 

Shafique, a director at Merc Car Breakers Ltd., opened a Lloyds Bank account a month ago. He also received a £50,000 loan.

A few months later, Shafique received a second loan, this time for £45,000, after opening a another bank account for his work as a sole trader in computing.

The loan was approved within five days of opening the bank account.

The sum was then transferred to the Merc Car Breakers Ltd account and the remainder to his personal account.

In April 2020, at the height the pandemic was raging, the government introduced the bounce back loan program.

It was set up to help small and medium-sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and up to 25 per cent of their turnover.

For the first year, there was no interest or fees to be paid and the government guarantee 100 percent of the loan. On March 31, 2011, the scheme ended.

An independent review revealed that the scheme was not at all risk. However, it still carries a high level of fraud risk.

This was due to self-certification and multiple applications. It also lacked legitimate business.

Originally the scheme was expected to cost about £18 billion to £26 billion, but that later increased to between £38 to £48 billion.

Hussain (44), Tonge Moor Road in Bolton pleaded guilty conspiracy to steal, conspiracy to handle stolen goods, conspiracy to export, and fraud

Shafique (23), Camberwell Street Oldham pleaded guilty in conspiracy to deal with stolen goods, conspiracy to import, and fraud.

Yesterday [Jan 20]Hussain was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his involvement with the gang while Shafique was held for only five years.