By Paul Nyathi| Fourteen people who include some Zimbabweans among them a former National Team footballer and a prominent journalist are undergoing trial in the United kingdom for swindling the government there half a million pounds before losing on attempts to swindle another half a million.
Led by a Nigerian kingpin, the Zimbabweans among them former National Team player Liberty Masunda and former Chronicle Newspaper journalist, Clemence Marijeni, are on trial for hatching a plot to pocket £1 million through a maternity allowance claims racket.
The Nigerian ring leader Emek Chukwurah is co- accused with Marijeni, Masunda and other Zimbabweans namely Tiwone Dokowe, Patient Kanjira, Tapiwa Madziwa, Tinashe Sagomba, Casper Mawoko, Laura Baza, Faith Tagarira, Todd Tagarira, Kudakwashe Mhembere and Walusungu Ngwira.
The Wolverhampton Crown Court heard that the gang made at least 165 fake applications for the benefit pay out in the space of 4 years.
Around £450,000 was paid into the bank accounts controlled or used by the 15 people involved in the racket over the period.
Other attempts amounting to over £500 000 made by them were identified as frauds by Department of Work and Pension (DWP) officials and not paid.
If all the applications had been successful the gang would have gotten away with £1 million.
Members of the gang supposedly filled in bogus application forms with details of a bank account under their control into which the money was to be paid.
This was submitted with a forged maternity certificate confirming either a pregnancy or birth, signed by a member of a GP practice with an official stamp meant to prove the document’s authenticity.
This included the personal identification number of the alleged signatory.
Several of the defendants were arrested for being prepared to have their bank account used to launder money generated by the fraud, the court heard.
All deny conspiring together with Henry Baza to defraud the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions by applying for and, or, receiving maternity allowance payment to which they were not entitled between May 4 2011 and August 28 2015.
The trial, which is expected to last several weeks, continues.