Admirable decision by benefit cheat case judge

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LESLEY KEATING: A white-knuckle pursuit ending with a lesson in trust

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Sadly there are plenty of people who prefer not to live honestly – and instead live the lifestyles they choose at the expense of others.

But few can have managed to do this so audaciously as Abdul Esfandmozd.

He claimed to be confined to a wheelchair, severely disabled and unable to work.

As a result he was paid hundreds of thousands of pounds in benefits he wasn’t entitled to.

And he spent those thousands living it up on holiday – even being caught on camera hula dancing when he claimed to be unable to put one foot in front of the other.

He didn’t get his ill-gotten gains through mugging or robbery, but he still stole that money from honest and hard-working people.

Even once his lies were exposed, Esfandmozd continued to insult people who are genuinely disabled by turning up to a court confiscation hearing in a wheelchair and disrupting proceedings with bogus weeping.

All too often we have reported in cases where criminals have been effectively allowed to keep some or all of the proceeds of their crimes because courts have accepted that the money has been spent.

Refreshingly, there was no such lenience in this case.

Esfandmozd will have to pay back every penny of the £318,000 that he is estimated to have swindled.

And if he doesn’t, he faces a further five years in prison on top of his already considerable four-year sentence.

It’s the right decision and one which takes into account not only the extent of Esfandmozd’s crimes, but the fact that we are all victims when people seek to abuse a benefits system that is supposed to be there to help the poorest and most unfortunate in our society.

Hopefully this strident decision will not only put Esfandmozd in his place but will also act as a deterrent to others who might think that cheating the welfare system is a way to get easy money.

During the confiscation hearing, Esfandmozd repeatedly shouted ‘I still trust British justice’.

And after this sensible outcome in the case of the hula-dancing conman, so do we.