THE driving force behind the Bradford-based food brand Mumtaz, who a judge said had contributed a "huge amount" to the city, has been found guilty of a £100,000 fraud.
Gul-Nawaz Khan Akbar was handed a nine month prison sentence, suspended for a year, and ordered to pay £34,000 costs after a jury yesterday took less than an hour to find him guilty of using fraudulent invoices in a bod to secure a grant from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills and Yorkshire Forward.
The grant had been offered to Mumtaz Food Products to build a £5 million factory in Legrams Lane.
The judge behind the case said it was "unfortunate" that the man behind one of Bradford's most successful businesses had now lost his good reputation.
The grant required Akbar, 54 of Legrams Lane, Listerhills, to prove that £1.1 million of capital had been invested in the project before the money was handed over, and he had a deadline of late December 2011 to provide paperwork to prove this.
A series of problems with the project, from planning issues to Japanese knotweed being found on the site, meant Akbar was unable to provide the paperwork in time. To prevent the loan from being withdrawn, he submitted fraudulent invoices.
The grant never went ahead, although a separate Government grant of £450,000 did go ahead, and the factory was still built.The documents claimed money had been paid to a company called Kelvic Development for work at the site. In fact Kelvic was in the process of going into liquidation at the time.
His defence team had argued that Akbar had only submitted the false documents to buy the project some time, and had never intended to financially benefit from fraud.
But at Bradford Crown Court yesterday the jury took about 45 minutes to reach a guilty verdict.
The week long trial trial had cost BIS £34,500, which Akbar will now have to pay in costs.
Akbar joined Mumtaz as managing director in 1992, turning it from a small take away business into a multi-million pound food empire, providing meals to supermarkets across the country.
Sentencing Akbar, the judge, Recorder Anthony Hawks, said: "In some ways this is a very unfortunate case.
"You are a person who, through your own diligence has contributed a huge amount to this city in investment and industry. I suspect that a large portion of people in this city are proud that your business has become such a successful brand.
"In 2009 you embarked on a major investment in this city, a new factory. Through no fault of your own you were unable to meet a deadline. To preserve the money, you resorted to fraud.
"The aggravating feature is that you involved other people in this fraud, but to your credit you have taken all responsibility for this.
""It is a great shame that someone of your background and business experience has now been convicted of a criminal offence of fraud."
Recoder Hawks noted it was an "unusual" case, as the £100,000 loan had not been paid so Akbar had not benefit from the fraud and the factory was built.