Iraqi immigrant, 62, claimed £35,000 in benefits despite having thousands in hidden bank account ‘because he was doing nothing wrong under Islamic law’
Majid Hussain was paid income support, housing and council tax benefits
At the same time he had £18,000 rising to £36,000 in secret bank account
He said money was left in trust by father for his children’s education and he had sworn oath on Koran he would preserve money
By Larisa Brown
PUBLISHED: 09:40, 11 October 2012 |
An Iraqi immigrant accused of fiddling more than £35,000 in benefits claims he did nothing wrong because he was acting under the rule of Islamic law.
Majid Hussain, who has not worked since arriving in Britain as a mature student in 1986, was paid income support, housing and council tax benefits for 13 years – and signed an annual assurance that he did not have any undeclared bank accounts.
But in fact during that time he had a secret bank account, containing a sum that rose from £18,000 to £36,000.
Hussain said the money was left in a trust by his father for his children’s education.
He said he had a duty under Islamic law and his own culture to honour an oath to his late father to preserve the money for the education of his four children, aged between nine and 18.
Therefore, he said, the money was in no way his.
Hussain’s income support was cut off after the account was discovered in 2010 but he is still claiming disability living allowance because he suffers from Crohn’s Disease, kidney problems and muscle pain.
Hussain, of Exeter, Devon, denies three counts of dishonestly claiming a total of more than £35,000 between 1997 and 2010 in the case at Exeter Crown Court.
Mr Malcolm Galloway, prosecuting, said it was agreed by both sides that Hussain claimed the money at a time when he had a RBS account with between £18,000 and £36,000 in it.
The jury were handed a folder of forms, all signed by Hussain, in which he declared that neither he or any of his children had savings or bank accounts which could affect the claims for the means-tested benefits.
He said Hussain told investigators the money in the account was saved from his scholarship money when the Iraqi government was paying for him to study at Exeter University from 1986 to 1996.
He later filed a defence in which he said it came from his late father and was held in trust.
It read: ‘He did not notify the DWP of some of the money under his control because it was left to him on strict Islamic terms by a relative for the sole use of his children.
‘In accordance with Islamic belief and law there was no possibility or option for it ever to be used for his own use and as such there was no intention to deceive.’
Mr Galloway said: ‘This case is not about religion or culture. It is to do with honesty and dishonesty. He is not a man who likes to give a straight answer. He goes round and round looking for excuses.’
He pointed out that within weeks of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) discovering the account, Hussain withdrew around £15,000, apparently for his own use.
Hussain told the jury his father gave him the money for the education of his grandchildren when he came to Britain in 1986 even though at the time he was not married and did not have any children.
He said his father anticipated him starting a family and made him promise to use it to send any children to university.
Hussain said he later married a British wife in 1991 and had four children.
His father died in 1997. He started claiming benefits in the same year after he graduated from Exeter University and was unable to work because of illness.
He told the jury: ‘I promised him on the Koran. I read the Koran and you have a duty to obey your parents. It is part of Islamic culture and tribal culture.
‘Allah commands you to render back your trust to those to whom they are due and not to break your oath. I had to carry out this agreement in the name of God.
‘This money was not mine. It was from my father to my children for when they go to university. It was not my money and it did not cross my mind when I signed the forms.
‘I was not acting dishonestly. It was not my money at all. I never thought about the money in my account. This is my belief and my faith.’
When asked why he had withdrawn money once it was found by the DWP he said: ‘They stopped my benefit. They withdrew their duty of care. I did not want to see my children struggling or losing their home. I am a responsible father.’
The case continues.