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Leeds money launderer is jailed for six years

A money launderer from Leeds who helped “clean up” millions of pounds of dirty cash has been jailed for six years after an HM Revenue and Customs investigation.

Richard Strauss, who is 37, was jailed along with Bhader Singh, of Kettering, after they helped to launder £20 million in an attempt to hide its criminal origins, believed to be from the sale of illicit alcohol.

Richard Strauss

Strauss, the director of Anglotrade Beverages Ireland, was found with £50,060 cash in his possession in November 2012. He was found guilty of converting/transferring criminal property to the value of £7,112,150 after a seven-week trial at Chelmsford Crown Court. Confiscation proceedings to recover the proceeds of the fraud will follow.

Singh, 35, set up a fake wholesale company and produced false invoices to disguise financial transactions as legitimate sales of alcohol in the bonds market between January 2011 and October 2012.

The money from the transactions was paid to Anglotrade Beverages Ireland, and immediately transferred overseas from the business account.

Partner in crime Bhader Singh

This sentencing brings to an end a three-year investigation, centered on a highly organised and complex fraud. Singh’s company was set up to create an illusion of legitimate trading when in fact their sole purpose was to clean up the dirty cash of criminal activity. Those involved knew they were breaking the law by providing a service for criminals to launder their cash in an attempt to hide their criminal profits and avoid detection by law enforcement. HMRC is investing more time and resources than ever into identifying fraud. Our work does not stop at sentencing, but at depriving those involved of the proceeds of their crimes.

– David Margree, Assistant Director, Criminal Investigation, HMRC,

Sheffield GP funding petition goes to Downing Street

Over 2,000 local people have signed a petition calling on the Government to keep essential funding for GP practices who serve patients with higher and more complex health needs.

It calls for a halt to cuts which threaten 100 GPs practices with closure across the country - including two in central Sheffield.

The petition was started in January by staff and patients at the Devonshire Green and Hanover Medical Centres who are one of the 100 affected.

Today a group of doctors, staff and patients will join Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield to hand in the petition at No.10 Downing Street.

Mr Blomfield helped launch the petition and has challenged Ministers on the issue in Parliament on several occasions. Whilst in Westminster the group will also meet with a Government Health Minister and Labour's Shadow Secretary of State for Health Andy Burnham.

The petition was launched to challenge the Government's decision to axe a special funding stream called the Minimum Practice Income Guarantee (MPIG).

MPIG funding supports GP surgeries, such as Devonshire Green and Hanover Medical Centres and also Sharrow Lane Medical Centre, which serve areas with above-average health needs.

Cutting this funding will mean some GP practices lose as much as £140,000 income. It is estimated that this loss of funding means four or five practices in Sheffield- all in areas of high need - may be forced to close.

"Since we started the petition in January the response from our patients and members of the public has been great. There's a terrific strength of feeling about this issue.

"We've been pleased to work with our local MP Paul Blomfield to ensure that our situation is raised in Parliament. Surgeries like ours face a real crisis due to MPIG funding being withdrawn and we'll continue the fight to protect our GP surgeries and our patients.

"Our message to the Government is simple -halt the cuts and provide fair funding for our GPs practices."

– Dr Graham Pettinger, Devonshire Green Medical Centre

"Local GP surgeries like Hanover and Devonshire Green are a vital front line for the NHS.

"It's outrageous that those serving the most vulnerable patients are seeing their funds cut. Ministers need to urgently listen to the concerns of local GPs and the thousands of people who have signed the petition before it's too late.

"The prospect of GP surgeries in my constituency going bankrupt and closing is deeply concerning.

"I've raised these concerns with Ministers in Parliament and I'll keep pressing the case until they change their policy. "Labour's Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham has pledged to stop this funding being withdrawn, if we win May's election, and to review the decision before any practice closes, but we're handing in the petition at Downing St because we need to put pressure on the Government now."

– Paul Blomfield MP

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Dolly Parton backed reading scheme faces axe

A reading scheme for children in Rotherham backed by country and western star Dolly Parton is facing the axe after the local council pulled its financial support.

Dolly Parton launched the Imagination Library eight years ago

The Imagination Library was launched eight years ago to encourage under five-year-olds to read by sending them a free book every month. Rotherham Council is blaming government cuts for its decision to withdraw £400,000 funding.

A spokesman for Dolly Parton said she was disappointed with the decision.

Former academy principal charged with fraud

The founder and principal of a flagship free school in Bradford has been charged with fraud and other offences.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said Sajid Hussain Raza has been charged with offences which relate to his involvement with the Kings Science Academy.

Raza was arrested last year following an investigation into the school, which was visited by Prime Minister David Cameron in 2012.

The CPS said it had authorised West Yorkshire Police to charge him with three offences of fraud by abuse of position, three offences of false accounting, two offences of obtaining a money transfer by deception, and one offence of fraud by false representation.

Julian Briggs, reviewing lawyer at CPS Yorkshire and Humberside's complex casework unit, said: "The Crown Prosecution Service has been working closely with West Yorkshire Police in connection with this case.

"Having carefully considered all of the evidence presented to us, we have concluded that there is sufficient evidence to charge Sajid Hussain Raza (principal) with a range of offences relating to his involvement with the Kings Science Academy, Bradford, and that it is in the public interest to do so.

"Accordingly, I have authorised West Yorkshire Police to charge Sajid Hussain Raza with three offences of fraud by abuse of position, three offences of false accounting, two offences of obtaining a money transfer by deception, and one offence of fraud by false representation. He will first appear at Leeds Magistrates' Court shortly.

"This defendant has now been charged with serious criminal offences and has the right to a fair trial. It is extremely important that there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings."

The academy was one of the first free schools to open in September 2011. It was set up by Mr Raza and praised by Mr Cameron on his visit in March 2012.

West Yorkshire Police said Raza, 42, of Spring Gardens Road, Bradford, has been released on bail and will appear at Leeds Magistrates' Court on a date yet to be fixed.

The force said the charges relate to financial matters at the school between April and August 2011.

Train ticket forger told to repay £17,000 or face jail

A train passenger from Doncaster who used forged first-class rail and parking tickets totalling more than £17,000 to travel round the UK has been told to pay back the cash or face jail.

Stock photo Credit: Press Association

Mark Mason used computers at his home to create the forgeries, which he used to travel for more than two years, British Transport Police (BTP) said.

Suspicions about Mason were first raised in autumn 2013 when staff at Doncaster railway station spotted various discrepancies with parking tickets on the contract worker's black Vauxhall Meriva in the executive car park.

These included an expired ticket as well as tickets with the wrong colours, no date and time printed, incorrect emblems and the wrong price paid.

Mason was arrested in December 2013 when he returned his car and 10 more tickets were found in the vehicle which were believed to be forged.

BTP said a search of the defendant's home led to the discovery of forged travel and parking tickets, genuine tickets, glossy photographic paper, computers and printers, craft knives, scissors and a cutting board.

Forensic examination of the computer devices revealed that Mason had used the computers to produce forged travel and parking tickets.

Mason, 44, of Thorne Road, Hatfield, Doncaster, was convicted of fraud charges relating to 85 tickets, valued at £17,000, on September 16 2014 at Sheffield Crown Court, BTP said.

He was sentenced to six months in prison, suspended for two years and ordered to undertake 240 hours of unpaid work and a 12-day restorative justice course.

The force confirmed that a judge at a proceeds of crime hearing last week ordered Mason to pay £17,884 over six months. Failure to pay will result in a default sentence of 12 months in prison.

The offences were committed between March 24 2011 and December 19 2013.

Detective Constable David Williams said: "This sentence sends a clear message to anyone thinking of trying to evade payment of train fares and/or parking that it really isn't worth it.

"Mason must now pay back all the money he thought he had saved with his fraudulent behaviour or face serving a prison sentence."

North Yorkshire village to benefit from proposed fuel rebate

Drivers in some of the most remote parts of the UK, including a village in North Yorkshire, are to get a discount on petrol and diesel thanks to a rebate scheme.

North Yorkshire village to benefit from fuel rebate Credit: Press Association

The rural fuel rebate is being extended to 17 of the most isolated communities in Scotland and England at the end of May, allowing motorists living there to get 5p off every litre.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said the move will help up to 125,000 people in areas that are currently faced with some of the highest fuel prices in the country.

It is the first time that the European Union has approved a fuel discount for people living on the UK mainland.

Currently, islanders off the coast of Scotland and in the Isles of Scilly are eligible for a 5p discount on petrol and diesel because the costs of transporting fuel there means prices at the pump are much higher.

From the start of next month, people living in 17 parts of the UK will be able to register for the scheme, with the rebate then coming into effect from May 31.

Mr Alexander said: "Thanks to my action in Government, motorists across some of the UK's most remote rural areas will now benefit from a fuel discount.

"I have made introducing the rural fuel rebate a top priority because I know from my own experience that cars are a necessity, not a luxury, for people living in remote communities - and that petrol in these areas is far more expensive than the rest of the UK.

"People will see lower prices from the end of May, with filling stations in the 17 selected areas able to register for the scheme from April 1. Combined with the current fall in oil prices and the freeze in fuel duty rates nationwide, this 5p discount on fuel prices will provide a much-needed boost to families who face the highest fuel prices."

The rebate will apply in the postcode areas IV14, IV21, IV22, IV26, IV27, IV54, PH19, PH23, PH36, PH41 and KW12, all in the Scottish Highlands, as well as those in the PA38 and PA80 areas of Argyll and Bute.

In England it will help those in the NE48 area of Northumberland, the LA17 area of Cumbria, the EX35 area of Devon and Hawes in North Yorkshire.

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Thousands of homes still at risk of coastal flooding

Seventy five percent of homes at risk of coastal flooding in East Lindsey are still not signed up to receive advanced flood warning, it has been revealed today.

Councils and the Environment Agency are warning that thousands of people on the Lincolnshire coast are putting themselves at risk of harm by not registering with Flood Warnings Direct.

Despite East Coast flooding being the greatest risk to the County, an estimated 75 per cent of households in coastal flood risk areas in East Lindsey have not signed up to the scheme, which is free of charge and provides a telephone call to a landline or mobile to give advance warnings of potential flooding.

"The tidal surge proved that flooding can have devastating effects on communities and it is important people are aware if their home could be affected.

"By signing up for flood warnings from the Environment Agency you will receive plenty of notice which can help you to protect your home and your family."

– David Powell, Head of Emergency Planning at Lincolnshire County Council

"In recent years we have seen the devastating effects of flooding – most recently in 2013 when flooding caused by a tidal surge devastated many homes and businesses across the country.

"While we will never be able to prevent flooding entirely, those living in areas of flood risk, be it on the coast or inland, should be as prepared as they can be, limiting the devastation that a flood can cause.

"I would urge anyone who lives in or has a business in a flood risk area to sign up to the FWD scheme now."

– Cllr Steve O'Dare. Portfolio Holder for the Environment

"Despite year on year campaigns it remains very surprising that such a small percentage of households are signed up to receive free flood warnings. Please don’t delay - make that call as it really can make a huge difference."

– Rachael McMahon. Flood Resilience Advisor

To register for flood warnings go online at www.gov.uk/flood, or call Floodline on 0345 988 1188. You can choose five ways that you would like to be contacted with flood warning messages including phone numbers and email addresses so that whether you are at home or away, you will get the messages.

Husband and wife to tackle 100km challenge

A husband and wife are set to tackle the Blind Veterans UK 100k London to Brighton challenge this June.

Mark Sullivan, 56, from York, and his 46-year-old wife Rachel have both signed up for the event after Mark took part in last year's 100k on his own.

Rachel used to run regularly but was forced to switch to cycling and walking after she damaged her cartilage in an accident.

"After my accident my sons and I were watching Walking With The Wounded, and they said if they can do it without sight or limbs then I can do it with missing cartilage.

"My husband does the Blind Veterans UK 100k challenge each year and I've been wanting to do it. After hearing about how great it was for him last year, I'll finally be joining him on the start line."

– Rachel Sullivan

Mark joined the Army in 1976 and became part of the Intelligence Corps.

He served in Northern Ireland, Hong Kong, Cyprus, Germany and Bosnia before leaving the service in 1998.

Mark then went on to become a lecturer at York's St John University and joined the Army reserve, where he again was part of the Intelligence Corps until late last year.

"I've seen for myself the amazing work that Blind Veterans UK does and the huge difference it makes in the lives of the thousands of veterans it supports."

– Mark Sullivan

The 100k is Blind Veterans UK's biggest annual fundraiser and takes walkers from a starting point in south London along the banks of the Thames, through countryside paths in Surrey, Sussex and the North and South Downs to the charity's centre in Ovingdean, Brighton.

Registration is open and costs £50 per participant for the 50k or £75 for the 100k.

Teams taking part in the relay have a registration fee of £120.

The entrance fee includes hot food at three rest stops, snacks and refreshments along the route and a free event t-shirt.

To find out more about Blind Veterans UK's 100k challenge, and to sign up for the event on June 6, visit www.blindveterans.org.uk/100k.

To sponsor Mark and Rachel as they tackle the 100k, please visit www.justgiving.com/Rachel-Mark-Sullivan.

Distinctive dresses stolen in Bradford raid

Police have released pictures of some distinctive Asian dresses which were stolen in a burglary in Bradford.

The dresses were among a significant amount of clothing and accessories taken when thieves broke into commercial premises in Tickhill Street overnight on Wednesday, 25 February.

One of the dresses stolen in a burglary in Bradford Credit: West Yorkshire Police
One of the dresses stolen in a burglary in Bradford Credit: West Yorkshire Police

A quantity of cash and computer equipment was also stolen in the burglary, which is believed to have occurred between 8pm last Wednesday, February 25 and 11am on Thursday February 26.

"We would like to hear from anyone who saw any suspicious activity in the Tickhill Street area between the times above.

"It is likely that the thieves will have used a vehicle to transport this clothing, which is distinctive and quite rare.

"We would also like to hear from anyone who is offered similar clothing or accessories for sale, possibly at a reduced price."

– Insp George Bardell, Bradford East Area Neighbourhood Team
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