Legal aid applicant sentenced for fraud
Tuesday, Mar 07, 2017
Investigations by the Scottish Legal Aid Board’s applicant investigations team have led to the conviction of Salim Eqbal after he was found guilty of obtaining legal aid fraudulently
Mr Eqbal was given a 240 hour community payback order after pleading guilty to three charges of fraud.
He was sentenced in Glasgow Sheriff Court for submitting false information about his capital in one application for advice and assistance and two for criminal legal aid.
Mr Eqbal failed to declare to SLAB funds held in his bank account and Premium Bonds. As a result he was granted legal aid and £1,316.21 was paid to his solicitors.
However, had the accused declared his true financial position, then legal assistance would not have been granted as the funds held by Mr Eqbal were over SLAB’s financial eligibility limits.
The maximum community payback sentence for this offence is 300 hours but the defendant was granted a sentence discount for pleading guilty at the intermediate diet.
A spokesperson for the Scottish Legal Aid Board said: “Unfortunately, there will be a small number of people who will attempt to defraud or abuse the legal aid system.
“We investigate the information provided by applicants for legal aid. We also investigate representations made to us about applicants’ financial circumstances by other parties in civil cases and we can check with banks and employers to verify information the applicant gives to us.
“In the most serious cases, we report people to the Procurator Fiscal. In other cases, we will withdraw legal aid and recover amounts paid.”
In 2015-16, SLAB made 6 reports to the Procurator Fiscal where applicants did not declare properties they owned or money they had in bank accounts.
In such cases, in addition to repaying the cost of their legal aid, the outcomes could include convictions for fraud or warnings or fines.
SLAB also investigates possible fraud or abuse of legal aid by lawyers.