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Blackburn man denies role in £27,000 benefits scam
6:10pm Tuesday 12th March 2013 in Blackburn
A MAN said to be a ‘lieutenant’ in a £27,000 benefits scam told a jury he had nothing to do with it.
Shakeel Butt, 27, was giving evidence at Burnley Crown Court, where he is on trial, together with Lucy Gakunga, 21.
Butt, of Lambeth Street, Blackburn, and his co-defendant both deny conspiracy to defraud.
The jury has been told how pensioners were cheated out of payments by a benefits official, who siphoned the money into a web of bank accounts.
Part of Vajid Ashraf's job at the Pensions Centre, in Simonstone, was to change bank account details of senior citizens receiving pension credits and other related benefits such as winter fuel allowance.
But Ashraf helped to direct at least £27,000 to bank accounts belonging to four women across the UK.
Kevin Slack, prosecuting for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), has told the court that instead of altering the bank account details for four pensioners, using the DWP internal computer system, he substituted the details for the four women.
Ashraf, 33, of Cumberland Avenue, Burnley, has admitted conspiracy to defraud and awaits sentence.
The hearing has been told Butt was said to have been one of Ashraf's lieutenants.
He has admitted he met Ashraf at a gym, but he has denied agreeing to take part in a benefits fraud.
In the witness box, giving evidence, Butt told the court he had not given anybody's bank details to Ashraf.
He claimed he did not know that Ashraf had worked at the DWP.
He said: “I didn’t know what the DWP meant until the officer came to my house.”
Cross-examined by Mr Slack, the defendant agreed he had been receiving Jobseekers' Allowance for two years before his arrest.
Mr Slack put to Butt that he ‘knew full well’ that Ashraf was working there and was abusing his position and he (Butt) had ‘knowingly and willingly’ assisted him for a share in the proceeds.
Butt replied: “That's not true. I didn't know he worked at the DWP. I didn't know that.”