"He took just short of £1.5 million from them."
A woman has claimed she had no idea her husband stole nearly £1.5 million from the National Lottery and an online estate agent.
Leicester Crown Court heard that Haroon Cassim scammed both Camelot and Yopa Property out of large sums of money whilst working in trusted positions for both companies.
He used bogus invoices from fake companies to transfer hundreds of thousands of pounds into two accounts belonging to his wife Sofina Sarwar, of Beaumont Road, Luton.
Cassim, described as a “problem gambler”, pleaded guilty in 2019 to the scam that saw him making over £300,000 a year for six years. He awaits sentencing.
Meanwhile, Sarwar is on trial accused of three counts of money laundering on various dates between 2011 and 2018. She denies knowing anything about the money.
Andrew Peet, prosecuting, said: “Haroon Cassim was employed over a number of years by two high profile employers, Camelot, which runs the national lottery and Yopa online estate agents.
“He took just short of £1.5 million from them.
“His annual salary was an average of £45,000 and it would have taken him about 30 years to earn the money stolen on top of his legitimate income.
“This amount was obtained during about a five or six-year time period.
“The Crown don’t say this defendant, Sarwar, was a party to any of the fraud or stealing.
“We say she was necessary for Cassim’s scheme because about £1.25 million was transferred directly from the employers of her husband – the fraudster – to her bank accounts.
“He had many accounts in his own name and they weren’t used.
“The Crown says she’s a money launderer.”
It was alleged that Sarwar allowed both accounts to be used to “dissipate” stolen money.
Mr Peet said:
“You might think she’d have to know that he was a fraudster and that he’d nicked all the money and that her account was being filled with criminal property.
“All the prosecution has to prove is that she suspected it was stolen.”
Mr Peet stated that of the £960,000 Cassim stole from the National Lottery, £748,000 was transferred directly into accounts only in Sarwar’s name.
Around £10,000 was transferred in respect of “wages” she allegedly earned as a Camelot employee. However, Mr Peet said Sarwar never worked for them.
The entire £505,000 stolen from Yopa was allegedly transferred into Sarwar’s personal accounts.
Mr Peet said: “These were bank accounts in her name, not his.
“Half a million quid (relating to Yopa) in less than two years. It’s more than eyebrow-raising.”
Mr Peet indicated that Sarwar must have had suspicions about her husband’s fraudulent activities.
The court heard that the money was transferred between her accounts.
The money was allegedly spent on “family lifestyle” which included a Ferrari and executive boxes at Premier League football matches.
Despite the luxury purchases, Sarwar said she thought her husband could afford them.
Cassim used the names of three businesses to submit bogus invoices to con his then employers.
When questioned, Sarwar claimed that she had no involvement in the laundering, spending or transferring of the money.
When the couple was arrested in summer 2018, they were planning to buy a house in Kestrel Lane, Leicester, using £200,000 of the illegally-obtained money from Sarwar’s account.
She said she knew her husband was putting money into her savings account but added:
“I don’t use it, he’s the only one.”
Mr Peet claimed that Sarwar falsely claimed to be “self-employed” on a form relating to the house purchase.
She accepted being the sole director of a firm set up by her husband but said she thought it was to legitimately recruit people to work for Yopa.
The scam came to light when Yopa looked at their accounts.
In August 2018, Cassim was arrested at the family’s rented home in New Parks, Leicester, and Sarwar was questioned about her alleged involvement.
In June 2019, Cassim pleaded guilty to five counts of fraud by abuse of position.
Three of the offences were when he worked as a contract tele-account manager for Camelot UK Lotteries Ltd. He created a bogus employee identity in the name of his wife. This led to monthly wages being made between August 2010 and March 2012.
Two offences related to false invoices presented to Yopa Property between October 2017 and August 2018.
Cassim further admitted two counts of converting criminal property regarding money in his wife’s accounts, relating to Camelot, between August 2010 and December 2013, and Yopa, between October 2017 and August 2018.
Sarwar said that she has split up with her husband since his offending came to fruition. She went on to say that she has “lost everything” and is now in receipt of universal credit.
Leicester Mercury reported that Sarwar’s trial continues.