A court has ruled that the founder of a flagship free school and two staff members fraudulently obtained £150,000 from government and “treated public money as their own.”
Said Hussain Raza, Shabana Hussain, and Duad Khan have been charged with making payments into their own bank accounts from a Department for Education grant provided to them to set up the Kings Science Academy in Bradford in 2011.
The court examined claims that the fraudulent activity went on for three years between November 2010 and December 2013 despite the concerns of senior civil servants about the leadership and financial management of the school. For example, Raza, the founder and principal of the school, used funds to make mortgage repayments on his rental properties. The defendants were charged with 10 counts of fraud between them.
Raza, from Bradford, is facing charges for four counts of fraud, three counts of false accounting, and two counts of obtaining money transfer by deception. Hussain, a teacher of the school and Raza’s sister, is charged with one count of fraud and one count of obtaining property by deception. Finally, Khan, the financial director at the school, is facing charges of two counts of fraud and three counts of false accounting.
According to The Telegraph, following the 2010 general election Kings Science Academy was among the first wave of free schools which were a part of a new flagship education policy. The Department for Education were given grants to cover the costs incurred while setting up of the school. These grants, evidently, were used by Raza and Hussain to make a series of payments into their own personal bank accounts:
“During the course of the set up and running of the school, the prosecution allege that the defendants committed fraud. They dishonestly diverted public money intended for the school, and they created a series of false documents intended to cover their tracks,” the prosecutor said.
After the school’s launch, the charged individuals then submitted inflated or fabricated invoices for rent, fees for heads of department, and recruitment services. They continued using the extra money to pay off personal expenses such as mortgages and debt repayments. According to the defendants, Raza began having financial problems at the time of the school’s implementation. He owned rental properties that were costing him money, and he began missing debt and mortgage payments due to insufficient funds in his accounts.
A Schools Week reporter notes that a number of county court judgments were entered against Raza; he did not disclose these injunctions to the Department for Education. He then was barred from becoming a signatory to the school’s bank account, but he kept this information quiet. “The prosecution invite you to infer that the other fraudulently acquired credit on his accounts were used in a similar way to alleviate his own financial problems,” said the prosecutor.
When allegations of fraud broke, the trio began pointing fingers at one another. Initially, Raza denied responsibility and accused Khan of “reckless counting.” For his part, Khan denied his involvement and blamed Raza, saying that Raza had threatened to fire him if Khan revealed Raza’s mismanagement. A number of meetings took place between Raza and worried officials from the Department for Education, and Raza had been described as “incredibly rude and dismissive.” He also displayed a lost understanding of finances as he would “pluck financial figures out of the air” and threatened to call former Education Secretary Michael Gove when challenged.
As reported by the BBC, all three have made no public comments since their arrests and have not made themselves available for interviews as the trial continues.