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Self-proclaimed mystic convicted of £77,000 benefit fraud
A self-proclaimed mystic, who claims to have undergone three years of complete austerity, has been convicted of more than £77,000 in benefit fraud.
The fraud investigation into Younus AlGohar, CEO of Messiah Foundation International (MFI), was featured on the BBC’s Saints and Scroungers last Thursday.
AlGohar, formerly of the Chase, Kingswood, who likes to be addressed as His Holiness, was prosecuted earlier this year for making false representations to gain housing and council benefits and income support to which he was not entitled.
The investigation began after it emerged that he had been paying his landlord in Kingswood twice the amount of rent he had been claiming from Reigate and Banstead Council.
Investigators found the same pattern in relation to two other properties, one of them in the Reigate and Banstead area, and discovered he had claimed council tax and housing benefits from Bromley Council. Income support was also claimed from the Department for Work and Pensions.
Presenter Matt Allwright told the camera: "That’s a staggering £77,646 fleeced from the taxpayer from his holiness who gallivanted around the globe staying in luxury hotels and treating himself to duty free."
AlGohar, who comes from Pakistan claims to have 11 masters degrees in subjects as diverse as organic chemistry and Islamic studies.
MFI's website proudly announces that AlGohar, currently on a lecture tour in Canada, underwent "a three year period of complete austerity from the luxuries of life, in order to achieve purification."
It also repeats a claim by him to have cured thousands of people around the world "physically and spiritually on promotional tours all over the world."
However, even AlGohar's date of birth is unclear. The website says he was born on June 16, 1970, but during the legal case he claimed he was born in June 1968.
Having originally protested his innocence, AlGohar pleaded guilty in June at Guildford Crown Court to 11 of 12 charges of dishonesty under the Social Security Administration Act 1992.
He was spared prison but received three concurrent prison sentences, the longest of which was 36 months, which were suspended for 18 months.
He was ordered to complete 240 hours of community service and pay £6,000.
The £77,646 was repaid in full by Messiah Foundation International (who were not implicated in his fraud in any way) on his behalf.
A Reigate and Banstead fraud investigator, who asked for anonymity, told the BBC: "The repaid money has gone back into the public purse and can now be used to provide benefits for those who need Government assistance."
Coun Julian Ellacott, executive member for housing and welfare, who featured in the documentary, said: "We were really pleased to feature in the programme as it shows the hard work that goes on behind the scenes to tackle benefit fraud in the borough.
"It also shows how we work with other authorities to bring those who commit fraud to justice.
"So far this financial year, our corporate anti fraud and anti-corruption team has carried out investigations into fraud totalling over £851,000.
"Benefits are there to help those that really need them, not for those that cheat the system for their own ends. I hope this sends the message that in Reigate and Banstead fraud will not be tolerated."
Watch the episode at www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00xggvx.
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