Birmingham City Council’s Trading Standards team received recognition for their work in tackling Hajj fraud at the launch of a national Hajj health and safety campaign this week.
The Association of British Hujjaj runs an annual Hajj health and safety campaign for pilgrims from the UK performing Hajj, but in recent years it has also focussed on the risks they face from unscrupulous travel operators when booking their trips to Mecca.
Officers attending the launch at the House of Lords on Wednesday (20 July 2016) were given special recognition outstanding achievement and commitment towards community service for Trading Standards work in leading a national enforcement project on Hajj and Umrah fraud in 2014/15.
During this project Birmingham City Council worked with over 20 local authorities, City of London Police and Metropolitan Police – visiting 181 tour operators, of which 81% were found to be non-compliant. This resulted in a significant number of enforcement actions including prosecutions, with penalties comprising of custodial sentences, fines and compensation for victims, including one case where seven victims received around £39,000 compensation.
The City of London Police also received a special recognition award for their work in relation to the national Hajj project.
Lord Ahmed, Patron of the ABH, and Steve McCabe, MP for Birmingham Hall Green, presented the award to Sajeela Naseer, Head of Trading Standards for Birmingham City Council, Mohammed Tariq, Trading Standards Senior Enforcement Officer and Detective Constable Steve Kettle of City of London Police.
Trading Standards received their award on the same day as a travel tour operator in Greater Manchester, investigated as part of the 2014/15 Hajj project, was successfully prosecuted by Tameside Trading Standards.
Ashton Hajj and Umra Ltd, based in Oldham Road, Ashton, pleaded guilty to offences under the Comsumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 at Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester on Wednesday (20 July 2016). The company was fined £6,700 and ordered to pay £34,000 compensation and £5,000 costs.
Sajeela Naseer, Head of Trading Standards for Birmingham City Council, said: “We are thrilled that our work across the country, leading the national Hajj project in 2014/15 which resulted in a number of high profile prosecutions, has been recognised by the Association of British Hujjaj.
“We are so pleased that Birmingham Trading Standards, through their national lead, were able to assist Tameside in achieving this excellent result.
“What is particularly pleasing is that the court has recognised the need to compensate the victims who had their pilgrimage ruined.”