The Association of British Hujjaj (ABH) has called for mainstream agencies to sell the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca after a conman was jailed for tricking customers out of about £570,000.
Mohammed Faruk Ahmed was jailed for six years after absconding with the money of 300 people who had booked the pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia through his agency. Ahmed had pleaded guilty on July 4 at Snaresbrook Crown Court to a string of fraud and money laundering offences.
Ahmed, 41, of Brick Lane, London, was running a travel agency called Qibla Hajj Kafela Services in Old Montague Street, East London. He took payments totalling £570,000 and spent some of it in casinos and gambling shops. He transferred the rest of it to Bangladeshi bank accounts.
The conman preyed on the local community and Muslims in other parts of the country. The Hajj pilgrimage costs about £2,000 per person and many of his victims were elderly and had been saving for several years to attend.
ABH general secretary Khalid Pervez said: “We would like more high-street agencies to arrange Hajj tours. The number of Hajj travel companies violating industry legislation has increased significantly in the last few years, and there is a perception among unscrupulous tour and travel operators that they are untouchable.”
The police are talking to Bangladeshi authorities about recovering the funds. Metropolitan Police detective inspector Des McHugh added: “The court recognised the impact that this fraud had on its victims. The sentence imposed reflected this.”
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