R v Abbasi – successful private prosecution of £7m Fraudulent Property Investor

On 18 May 2023, Bakhtiar Abbasi was sentenced to a significant 12 years’ imprisonment following his conviction after trial of offences of Fraud, Forgery and False representations by a debtor (an insolvency offence re an IVA) at Southwark Crown Court.

Abbasi’s criminality began in 2014 when he set up his company, New Global Investments UK Ltd, and began representing to individuals that he was an experienced property trader with access to London properties at below-market prices through an auction house – Auction House London. Our clients, the Siddiqui brothers who were brought up in London and now residents of Dubai, were at that time interested in buying property in the St John’s Wood area of London and were introduced to Abbasi at a family wedding in London.

Abbasi’s representations continued after they returned home with a detailed description of his property business representing that he had his own portfolio of £30m worth of properties with a turn over of £75m-£80m pa. He sent links to properties in the area they were interested in – representing that he could obtain the property below the advertised price and that, once obtained, he not only had ready buyers who would purchase at a much higher price but also could obtain an unconditional undertaking from the purchaser’s solicitor to pay a financial penalty should the purchase not be completed.

He persuaded the Siddiquis to invest in this deal by providing a deposit of £1,080,000. Once they had agreed, he provided the solicitors’ undertaking – from Enact Direct Legal Solutions – which undertook to provide a non-refundable deposit of £825,000. This letter was later found to be a forgery and the representations in relation to his business dealings were also false; he did not have a ‘portfolio of properties’ let alone one worth £30m, his company and its bank account had only been set up a number of weeks earlier.

When it came to returning the expected profit from the first deal, a second and much larger deal was proposed and the deal 1 profits rolled into the second. The second deal involved a residential property and a commercial property on Oxford Street, London with a combined purchase price said to be £25m. The Siddiquis were persuaded to invest the sum of £4,185,000 into the deposit for the deal. Again they were reassured by the false representations of Abbasi and the fact (so they were told) that the first deal had gone through. Again, the representations including that the first deal had completed, were all false.

After the second deposit was paid, the Siddiquis did receive the return of their initial investment in deal 1. They did not know, however, that it was simply a repayment out of the second deposit that they had made. The return of these funds together with further representations by Abbasi then induced the Siddiquis into a third deal.

The third deal involved two high-end Mayfair properties and two apartments at the well-known 1 Hyde Park building. Abbasi provided the details of the purported ready onward purchaser, who was in fact a real person, albeit in no way connected to Abbasi. Further forged solicitors’ letters were supplied in support of the deal providing unconditional guarantees. The purported profits from the first and second deals were intended to be rolled into this third deal, requiring the Siddiquis to transfer an additional £2,400,000.

When it came time to return the funds – the deals purporting to have been completed – Abbasi embarked on a second phase of the fraud: delay.

More and more false representations were made as to where the money was and what was happening with the deals. These were again supported by forged documents – emails from solicitors regarding delayed completion dates, guarantees from both Barclays and Auction House that a £28m cheque would be honoured (also forged) and even an entire fake National Crime Agency investigation and visit, with minute by minute updates provided by Abbasi detailing what the officers were looking at on a visit to Auction House London.

Abbasi did make a further payment of £1m in return to the brothers, however, later analysis of the bank statements demonstrates that this was not the profits or return from a property deal but came directly from other ‘investors’.

After delays and delays, the Siddiqui brothers asked Barclays to break the purported £28m bank guarantee that they had been shown, only to find out that Abbasi’s bank manager had no idea what they were talking about, there was no such guarantee and the account of New Global did not have the level of funds in it that could cover such guarantee.

In attempts to repay the amount advanced, Abbasi organised 4 cheques from his company in Dubai, signed & issued by his brother-in-law (a director based in Dubai) for a total of AED20m. Abbasi arranged these cheques to be issued despite knowing that it is a criminal offence in Dubai to issue a cheque without having funds in the account to honour it. Needless to say the cheques bounced resulting ultimately in Abbasi’s brother in law receiving a prison sentence of 3 years.

Further attempts at repayment were made including the provision of powers of attorney to sell three flats owned by Abbasi in Dubai. Unbeknownst to the Siddiqui brothers, their funds had been used to purchase these flats.

Eventually Abbasi admitted the third deal hadn’t happened. He stressed that the earlier deals had taken place however, and that the Siddiqui brothers’ money was safe. He issued a further cheque, this time signed by himself, for £11m as further security. Unsurprisingly when this was cashed a few months later, it came back ‘account closed’.

Abbasi was made bankrupt by a further investor in February 2017, it transpired that by his own admission, Abbasi owed more than £23m to 25 investors. Later that year and in order to escape the rigours of bankruptcy, he presented his creditors with a proposal for an Individual Voluntary Arrangement whereby he would be able to settle all his creditors’ claims in full by way of a £25m loan from a third party. The documents presented for this proposal were also later found to be forgeries and the IVA proposal a sham.

In evidence before Southwark Crown Court, Abbasi accepted that his company never traded in property and that rather he used the money to pay off creditors for his other businesses, and to support his other businesses. He blamed a third party (to whom he was related by marriage) for all of the forged documents, implying that he must have used Abbasi’s email account and mobile phone to send the false documents. Additionally, he claimed that the Siddiqui brothers knew there were no property deals and they had provided him with £7.6m to use as he wished. These claims were rejected by the jury which returned unanimous verdicts of guilty on all counts.

In addition to the sentence of 12 years’ imprisonment, the trial judge, His Honour Judge Cole, also disqualified the defendant from being a company director for a period of 15 years. In his sentencing remarks, the Judge noted “This was not a case where a legitimate, well intentioned business turned into a dishonest one through circumstances. It was a fraud from the beginning… I had the chance to observe your evidence over several days and observed your ability to layer lie upon lie as you tried to explain away a sustained fraud which was painstakingly documented by email, WhatsApp and other documents. There seemed to be no limit to the levels of dishonesty matched by your levels of greed.” Confiscation proceedings will now follow.

Edmonds Marshall McMahon statement

Andrew Marshall, Director at Edmonds Marshall McMahon comments: 

“Having received less than perfect service at another firm and with his summons having just been set aside, Mr Siddiqui came to Edmonds Marshall McMahon due to our expertise in conducting private prosecutions.

We successfully instigated and then obtained judicial review of the decision to set aside the summons and then went on to re-institute the criminal proceedings and continue the investigation obtaining evidence from the UK and across the world.

Having seen off a number of challenges and following lengthy and hard-fought trial process, the jury were unanimous in their guilty verdicts on all counts.

We are very pleased to have brought this to a successful conclusion for our client whose focus was justice and preventing frauds on others. The very significant sentence is a clear indication of the gravity of the matter.

Asim Siddiqui statement:

There have been no limits to the dishonesty and deceit of Mr Abbasi who has been exposed as being a pathological liar and serial fraudster.  Many have suffered financially and lost significant amounts of money, with some losing their entire life savings to his frauds.

Ultimately, my brother and I were the only ones who had the means to bring this case to court, so we felt immense pressure and personal responsibility to ensure that nobody else would become a victim of a similar crime by him. He has not shown any remorse or empathy and tried to defend the indefensible, all whilst trying to intimidate us to the very end.

A huge weight has been lifted from our shoulders now that justice has prevailed, and we can finally begin the process of closure.

We are grateful to our lawyers EMM and particularly Andrew Marshall and Fani Gamon for the way they recovered the private prosecution which had failed under previous lawyers and successfully concluded the case in our favour. Their dedication to this case was shown through their in-depth investigation, in which they managed to uncover further evidence of false representations in the insolvency proceedings, which resulted in an additional 3 year sentence.

In our experience EMM has proved to be the best in private prosecutions by a country mile. They have gone above and beyond in this case, and we will never forget what they have managed to achieve for us, and every victim of this case.

The case was prosecuted by Andrew Marshall, Partner, and Fani Gamon, Senior Associate together with Mike Jackson, Head of Investigations. Instructed counsel was Martin Evans KC, 33 Chancery Lane.