Love leads to biggest credit card fraud
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Love leads to biggest credit card fraud

A desire to be at par with his high-flying girlfriend landed Sunil Mahtani in jail for 9 years.

india Updated: Dec 29, 2003 12:26 IST

A computer clerk, Sunil Mahtani, has earned the notoriety of being Britain's biggest ever credit card fraudster at the very young age of 26. On Tuesday, he was sentenced for nine years and his two accomplices Shahjahan Miah and Shaidul Rahim, both of the same age 26, were jailed for four years.

He embarked on the crime course, according to his defence counsel, in an attempt to keep up with his high-flying financier girlfriend Elizabeth Ryan, who as a merchant banker earned much more than him. Mahtani feared that he would lose her.

But he also pleaded guilty to two counts of possession of indecent images of children with a view to distribute and two counts of making indecent images of a child. Some ill-gotten money, it is said, was also siphoned into buying and selling cheap cigarettes from Europe.

His swindle cost the banks over £2million. But given time, he would have netted £20 million. He used the money to buy expensive gifts for Ryan and also to fund a lavish lifestyle. Detective Sergeant Richard Money, of the Metropolitan police, described the extent of the fraud as "industrial".

Earlier, Middlesex Guildhall Crown Court was told that the Watford-based Mahtani worked for Checkline, which processes transactions for the Heathrow Express rail service. He got the job through his uncle Suresh Mirpuri, who is the managing director of the firm.

Mahtani's job was to process payments from passengers that gave him access to the details of thousands of credit cards. He copied the numbers and passed them on so they could be put on fake credit cards and used to make purchases in the UK and Europe. Over 7800 cards were found at the gang's residences.

Roger Smart, the prosecutor, told the court that the scam was "the largest credit card fraud investigated to date by any police force in the UK. Had all the card numbers that had been compromised had been used to conduct fraudulent transactions, the actual level of losses would have been in the region of £19,734,000".

Ali Naseem Bajwa, the defence counsel, told the court that his client was showing off. "His partner Elizabeth Ryan bought the house in which they both lived. She is a very successful banker who earns a good salary. Mahtani may have felt a little inferior to her. His income was nowhere near a match for hers.

"It may be to enhance his sense of esteem or just out of frustration, lack of job satisfaction and status and income, Mahtani fell prey to temptation." But, the uncle was candid enough to say that he felt betrayed by a person whom he had assisted.

He revealed that the case has affected the whole family. Sunil's mother had phoned him to apologise for what their son did. No one in the family is able to find any reason for such a big crime.

Sheer coincidence led to the discovery of the fraud. Undercover officers smashed the operation after meeting a member of the gang at the Holiday Inn at Brent Cross in north London. An officer asked for "face cards" he could encode and emboss but was told he could buy a "package" including stolen numbers.

First Published: Dec 25, 2003 21:33 IST