Nelson solicitor denies ‘nobbling’ witnesses in £312,000 international fraud

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A SOLICITOR allegedly “nobbled” witnesses in a £312,000 fake Duracell-drink fraud trial and was filmed handing over money, a jury was told.

Solicitor Majed Iqbal (32) from Elizabeth Street, Nelson, flew to Dubai 17 days before a trial of three Bradford brothers to negotiate pay-offs in exchange for silence, Hull Crown Court heard.

Five firms based in Dubai, Hong Kong, Hungary and Iran paid a total of £312,000 for exclusive international rights for a new British–based Duracell energy drink that had never even been invented.

The companies were the victims of a carefully planned international advanced-fee fraud – paying up front for a product which does exist. It was the brain child of the Hussain family of Bradford who run bars and takeaways. The family faced trial until police were tipped off, four out of five witnesses were reluctant, because they had been paid money not to attend court.

Crown barrister Mark McKone said police were waiting for Majed Iqbal at Manchester Airport as he travelled back with his client Yassar Hussain (31) from Dubai. They found him carrying a video clip showing Iqbal administering a bribe.

Mr McKone said police found his laptop containing a disc with evidence in the fraud case on it and money exchange slips. Two memory sticks recovered from his hand luggage showed a video clip of him handing over money in a Dubai Hotel room to an Iranian victim on May 19th. He said the last Dubai trip 17 days before the trial was to pay off a Hong Kong victim and involved the use of fake names.

Iqbal’s desk at his solicitor’s office was raided and police found four more written agreements not to attend court. Police started digging and found some evidence the defendants had been abroad on the dates when the agreements were signed.

When police raided the Bradford home of Yasser Hussain they found an Audi R8 in the drive with three of the fake drink cans in the glove box. Mr McKone said passports found at the house indicated entry to Dubai. The police found a paying in book and cheque books for Durrcell Co Ltd and false business cards from Proctor and Gamble.

Mr Iqbal, Yassar Hussain (31) and Zameer Hussain (25) are accused of a charge of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by persuading five fraud victims not to attend court. Yassar Hussain, who took ill on the first day of the trial, denied 14 charge of converting criminal property

Mr McKone said the case originally started with four men - Yassar Hussain, Zameer Hussain, Zakar Hussain (28), and Pervez Iqbal (38) - laying the groundwork for the elaborate Duracell fraud.

He said the idea for the new energy drink came from Yassar Hussain from Bradford, when he spoke to trade advisors in 2006. He said crucial to the fraud was a forged letter saying Proctor and Gamble had granted the world rights to the energy drink to Duracell Co Ltd.

Yassar Hussain set himself up as a director of the fake Duracell company, registering it at Companies House and using mail box addresses and a virtual office in St John Street, London, and Geldard Road, Leeds. The aim was to give the impression of a prestigious company using letter heads and business cards and a website

He said Proctor and Gamble, the owners of Duracell, had rejected their idea of an energy drink, but that did not stop the scam developing. Mr McKone said the defendants incorporated a company called Duracell Co. Ltd and Zakar Hussain applied for funding of £35,000 from the Department of Trade and Industry to stage an exhibition in Dubai to launch the drink.

To give the fraud credibility they set up links with a Dutch brewing factory and ordered 8,000 cans with Duracell labels at a cost of £7,800. The factory was also asked to issue invitation letters to international customers to visit the production plant.

Mr McKone then said the plans came together when they staged a launch at a three-day food trade fair at the World Trade Centre in Dubai in February, 2009. They got one of the largest stalls and were handing out cards and at one stage a customer had to wait an hour to be seen.

“There was a female receptionist,” said Mr McKone. “Yassar Hussain handed out business cards. Customers were offered exclusive distribution to certain parts of the world. The offer made the companies think they could make a lot of money. Obviously, the defendants had no right to give anyone sole rights to the Duracell brand name and the agreements were worthless.”

He said after the fair, Yassar Hussain set up a NatWest account in the Duracell name to receive the proceeds of the fraud. He flew out again to finalise arrangements with two firms in Dubai and one in Iran in April. Money began to be transferred. Around £300,000 was quickly withdrawn between May and August in 14 cheques in cash including one for £75,000

Mr McKone said: “By August 2009 when the defendants were £300,000 richer the website and telephone lines were closed down. The defendants kept the money but provided no cans of drink to any of the customers who had paid for them in advance.”

Yassar Hussain from Bradford, Zakar Hussain from Bradford, Pervez Iqbal from Birmingham and Zameer Hussain from Dewsbury have all pleaded not guilty to a charges of conspiracy to defraud.

Yassar Hussain, Zakar Hussain and Majed Iqbal have all pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

“Three defendants are charged with perverting the course of justice,” said Mr McKone. “In more every-day language it is nobbling witnesses in a fraud case.”

Solicitor Majed Iqbal made no comment in police interview but in a prepared statement had said he had nothing to do with paying off witnesses. He said it was co-incidence Yassar Hussain was in Dubai at the same time.

Questioned about the fraud, Yassar Hussain made no comment in police interview. Zakar Hussain said he just worked at the family takeaway and attended the Dubai fair looking to see if there was money to be made.

Zameer Hussain made no comment and refused to provide a sample of handwriting or pin number for his phone. He said the £300,000 he withdrew was to refit a new club he was opening in Preston and he had gone to Dubai to party. Pervez Iqbal made no comment in two police interviews.

The trial is expected to take seven weeks.