Association of British Hujjaj (Pilgrims) UK ABH, a national Hajj/Umrah specific charity organisation working for the welfare and wellbeing of pilgrims welcomes the Leicester Crown Court judgement to sentence the director of the Hajj firm Ashton Travels, Manchester – Babar Hussain (53) – for 14 months’ imprisonment, who was found guilty of Hajj fraud.
Sabir Raza (56),– a sales person with the firm – was also found guilty, received an 11-month sentence, was suspended for 18 months and ordered to do 180 hours’ unpaid work. Both Hussain and Raza were convicted of four offences under the Fraud Act 2006.
Both Hussain and Raza were also disqualified as acting as a director (or being involved in the management of a company) for five years from 31 January 2017.
The company, which trades as Ashton Travel, was also found guilty of four offences under the Fraud Act 2006. It will be sentenced at a later date and compensation for their victims will be considered at that hearing, following confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
More than 200 prospective Hajj pilgrims who planned to travel to Makkah had their journey of a lifetime ruined when they were told a day before departure that they could not travel as Ashton Travels had failed to obtain Hajj visas for them.
The pilgrims were utterly devastated, shocked and traumatized by this news, as they were constantly reassured that the visas would come through until finally being left shattered with the news about the cancelled trip.
The British parliamentarian, and the patron of Association of British Hujjaj (Pilgrims) UK, Lord Ahmed of Rotherham , commended the hard work and efforts made by the Trading Standards officers of Birmingham City Council along with support from City of London Police, for achieving another milestone Crown Court judgement against unscrupulous Hajj tour and travel operators.
He also strongly urges that the authorities from around the UK must follow the lead of Birmingham Trading Standards and adopt a zero tolerance policy to ensure rule of law to eliminate malpractices, fraudulent activities and corruption amongst the Hajj and Umrah service providers. “Achieving a successful conviction in the Ashton Travels case has sent a strong message to other service providers and will ensure rule of law is adhered to in the future”, said Lord Ahmed.
Association of British Hujjaj (Pilgrims) UK welcomes the statement of Councillor Barbara Dring, Chair of Birmingham Trading Standards, after the successful Court judgement: “I hope this case reinforces our message that we will continue to investigate and prosecute rogue traders exploiting pilgrims going to Makkah. We want pilgrims to know that we take their concerns seriously, understand their problems and will work with our partners to tackle this area of criminality.”
Hajj/ Umrah pilgrimage is very close to the heart of nearly 3 million people in the UK and travelling to perform pilgrimage holds extremely high significance and it is considered as a journey of a lifetime for pilgrims. Every year, over 125,000 British Muslims travel to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj and Umrah. However, a large number of these travellers including disabled, sick, and elderly have been experiencing extreme hardship and difficulties due to fraud, malpractice and violation of the UK legislation.