A high-flying accountant accused of defrauding his firm out of £1 million to blow on prostitutes could face jail over claims he lied to a court.
Mohammed Asif Khan looked after the books for Tyneside-based North of England Coachworks Ltd, the north east’s largest vehicle bodyshop.
But former bosses are suing the 42-year-old – who drives a £76,000 Bentley and sports a £16,000 Rolex watch – claiming he ripped off the company to the tune of seven figures.
The business claims to have possession of ‘graphic text messages’ proving that the accountant – who got married in 2018 – blew a ‘significant sum’ of that money on prostitutes.
Mr Khan, who denies all the allegations of wrongdoing, is being sued in the High Court and last year had his assets frozen by a judge, while the case against him waits to come to trial.
But he is also now facing a bid by the company’s bosses to have him jailed for contempt of court over claims he lied in a document put forward as part of his defence against the £1m civil claim.
Mohammed Asif Khan, pictured with wife Louise, looked after the books for Tyneside-based North of England Coachworks Ltd, the north east’s largest vehicle bodyshop
Permission to bring contempt of court proceedings was granted by a judge in May this year.
Mr Khan this week tried to have assets including the Bentley and Rolex – plus a £250,000 house in Church Gresley, Derbyshire – released, so he could sell them to pay for a top legal team to fight the contempt of court bid. This was rejected.
Mrs Justice Lambert told the High Court how the freezing order was made last September ‘in the context of proceedings against Mr Khan…by Mr Khan’s former employer, North of England Coachworks Limited (‘NECL’).
‘Those proceedings allege that Mr Khan defrauded NECL of over £1 million, including a significant sum having been spent by Mr Khan on prostitutes,’ the judge said.
Explaining how the contempt application arose, the judge told how Mr Khan had produced a table explaining the various payments he had made from the company account as part of his defence.
She added: ‘That table was signed by his solicitor on his behalf and bore a statement of truth. In respect of a large number of payments made to – it is alleged – prostitutes, Mr Khan recorded that the sums were paid either on behalf of NECL or for the benefit of his manager.
Mr Khan, pictured at his wedding, this week tried to have assets including the Bentley and Rolex – plus a £250,000 house in Church Gresley, Derbyshire – released, so he could sell them to pay for a top legal team to fight the contempt of court bid. This was rejected
‘Given the existence of relevant documentation and graphic text messages from Mr Khan to the women, committal proceedings were commenced against Mr Khan by NECL alleging dishonesty in his attributing payments made to prostitutes to work related purposes.’
The accountant this week claimed he has no money to pay for privately-funded lawyers to defend him against the bid to get him imprisoned, due to the effect of the freezing order.
He asked Mrs Justice Lambert to bypass the order and give him permission to sell his assets, but the judge refused his application to vary the order, telling him that he had not convinced her that he didn’t have access to other sources of money.
If he cannot pay, he will have to make do with legal aid, she told him.
‘Mr Khan asserts he has no funds with which to pay for the necessary legal advice…Mr Khan (says he) should not be forced to rely upon legal aid given that there are assets which can be sold to fund private representation,’ said the judge.
But she concluded the accountant had ‘failed to adduce credible evidence (or indeed any evidence) that there are no others who may be willing to continue to provide financial assistance.
Mr Khan’s wife, Louise, also had her assets frozen by the order in May this year. She too asked Mrs Justice Lambert to vary the order in her case, but the judge again refused
‘I therefore dismiss this application for permission to sell the three assets,’ she went on.
‘If private funding cannot be obtained for the purpose of representation at that hearing for any reason, then Mr Khan is entitled to public funding and I expect him to make strenuous attempts to obtain representation from one of the excellent firms who undertake publicly funded committal work.’
Mr Khan’s wife, Louise, also had her assets frozen by the order in May this year. She too asked Mrs Justice Lambert to vary the order in her case, but the judge again refused.
The application to commit Mr Khan to prison was due to hit court last week but was adjourned at the last minute, to return to court at a later date.
The trial of the company’s claim against Mr Khan is not set to take place before next year, with a pre-trial hearing set for January 2021.