Driving test fraudsters spared jail

A DOZEN Iraqi refugees who were linked to a Suffolk man who sat driving tests on their behalf have narrowly avoided jail.

Helen Skene

A DOZEN Iraqi refugees who were linked to a Suffolk man who sat driving tests on their behalf have narrowly avoided jail.

Sardar Omar Melkan impersonated learner drivers and took their theory tests for them throughout the UK in return for money of up to £500 and favours, Ipswich Crown Court heard yesterday.

Charles Myatt, prosecuting, said he was arrested at the YMCA in Ipswich and a number of driving documents were found in his possession.

He said Melkan had booked theory tests on his credit card and was seen on CCTV at various test centres sitting exams while pretending to be somebody else.

He added that although he had passed some of the tests he had failed a great many more.

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Mr Myatt said in the majority of cases Melkan had taken another person's driving documents to test centres and then returned them to their owners - sometimes with a pass certificate after the tests were completed.

Some of the defendants then attempted to take their practical tests at centres including Ipswich, the court heard.

Mr Myatt said Melkan - who he described as “the hub of the organisation” - was interviewed by police but has not been seen since and a warrant has been issued for his arrest.

Taha Ahmad, 25, of Flintshire, Farman Tamer, 25, of London, Ebdal Abdul, 24, of Edgware, Jamel Hassan, 30, of Plymouth, Ahmed Quadir, 34, of Shropshire, Nouri Ali, 33, of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Zana Ahmed, 23, of Peterborough, all pleaded guilty to fraud and were sentenced to 13 weeks in prison but the terms were suspended for 12 months.

Each was told to do 100 hours unpaid work and each was ordered to pay £250 towards prosecution costs.

Omed Ahmad, 31, of Stoke-on-Trent was sentenced to 39 weeks suspended for two years, given 200 hours unpaid work and told to pay £250 after he pleaded guilty to sitting a test on behalf of Zana Ahmed.

Sakhar Said, 32, of Birmingham, was convicted following a trial of two counts of fraud after Melkan failed his theory tests - he was sentenced to 30 weeks suspended for 18 months, curfewed for six months, disqualified from driving for six months and told to pay £250.

Ziyad Rashid, 33, of Leicester, was sentenced to 13 weeks, suspended for 12 months, a four month curfew and told to pay £250 costs after he admitted fraud.

Namig Najeem, 34, of Peterborough, and Hussein Essa, 30, of Manchester, who both pleaded guilty to fraud, had sentencing adjourned until October so pre-sentence reports could be prepared.

Recorder Gerard Pounder said: “These offences are serious and strike at the heart of driving in this country.

“Tests are in place to make sure people who drive in the UK are up to the requisite standard.”

The court heard that the defendants were all of previous good character, many of them employed and all had fled Iraq's violence and become refugees in England.