A conman who cheated thousands of pounds from the legal aid system and ran a service to help criminals hide their ill-gotten gains has been told by top judges he deserves every day of his jail term.
Despite having no legal qualifications, Mohammed Arshid Khatana set up a business with the intention of acting as a money launderer to scoundrels facing confiscation proceedings.
He was jailed for eight-and-a-half years at Preston Crown Court in September after admitting 15 counts of fraud and beng convicted of attempting to enter into a money-laundering arrangement.
Khatana (52), of Hawkswood Gardens, Brierfield, challenged his sentence at London’s Criminal Appeal Court on Wednesday, with his lawyers arguing it was too long.
But his appeal bid was rejected by three of the country’s most senior judges, who said the term was not excessive in view of his “persistent and determined” crimes.
Khatana set up a firm called POCA Consulting in the hope of attracting business from criminals facing proceeds of crime hearings to confiscate their ill-gotten gains.
Although he had no legal qualifications, he offered to represent clients and would visit them before arranging to transfer their legal aid to a solicitor’s firm and charging up to £500 for the referral.
In one case, he defrauded a 74-year-old man , who was facing confiscation proceedings for money laundering, by inflating what should have been a £10,000 bill to £43,000.
Some of Khatana’s clients were on legal aid and therefore he cheated money from the public purse by billing the Legal Services Commission.
Some of the offences were committed in 2008 and the court heard Khatana continued offending even after he was arrested and released on bail.
He was caught out over his money-laundering plan after an undercover officer posed as the girlfriend of a drug dealer and discussed how to hide cash with Khatana – telling him there was £500,000 involved.
Sentencing him, the crown court judge said he was satisfied Khatana planned from the outset that the business would be a vehicle for fraud, and called him a “determined, persistent, versatile and sophisticated professional criminal”.
His lawyers argued his sentence was over the top, saying the judge incorrectly based the level of his wrongdoing in relation to the money laundering plot on the £500,000 mentioned by the undercover officer.
But, dismissing the appeal, Lady Justice Rafferty said the actual figure involved in his offending did not matter, because he was prepared to, and intended to, launder large sums for criminals.
Sitting with Mr Justice Kenneth Parker and Judge William Davis, she said: “This was a tough sentence, but it was within the appropriate range.”