Scotland’s Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wrote letter for fraudster. NICOLA STURGEON, Scotland’s Deputy First Minister, and Health Secretary has been revealed to have written a letter in support of a serial benefits fraudster who defrauded £80,000 from the Department of Work and Pensions. In an appalling move, Ms Sturgeon asked Glasgow Sheriff Court to consider an alternative to a custodial sentence, for 60 year old Abdul Rauf, who has a criminal record for a previous offence involving fraud which it is claimed Ms Sturgeon already knew of before writing the letter now at the centre of calls for Ms Sturgeon's resignation.
Alex Salmond supported Ms Sturgeon asking the court to change its sentence. Political opponents are calling on Ms Sturgeon to resign, despite having gained initial support from First Minister Alex Salmond (must be ok to support benefits cheats, not abuse victims – Ed) however legal insiders say the terms used by Ms Sturgeon in her letter amount to political interference with the judiciary, and must be fully investigated. A spokesman for the SNP backed up Mr Salmond’s claims that Ms Sturgeon was fulfilling her obligations to constutients by representing Mr Rauf, even though not one politician at the Scottish Parliament would say they would write the same letter Ms Sturgeon wrote for Mr Rauf.
I refer to my above named constituent and the case brought against him for benefit fraud.
I have been aware of Mr Rauf's case since July 2008 when he sought assistance from me after a search warrant was executed at his home by the Department of Work and Pensions and officers from Strathclyde Police.
It was clear at that time that he recognised the serious nature of the matter he was facing and that it would be necessary to pay back the money he had obtained unlawfully.
For a number of years Mr Rauf has suffered from poor health, mainly associated with his heart. He has a family including young children aged under 10 and he is heavily involved in his community.
All of these aspects of his life have been significantly impacted upon by the mistakes he has made.
Mr Rauf has accepted his wrong doing and has experienced the consequences of it through the effect on his health, the distress caused to his family and the impact on his standing in his community.
He has advised me that he has already paid £27,000 of the outstanding balance owed to the Department of Work and Pensions and has said since he first sought my advice that he will sell his property in Edinburgh to settle the remaining balance.
He and his wife are anxious that a custodial sentence may be imposed by the court and of the effect this will have on Mr Rauf's health and the impact on family life.
I would appeal to the court to take the points raised here into account and consider alternatives to a custodial sentence.
SIGNED NICOLA STURGEON.
“consider alternatives to a custodial sentence.” … (interference in the court process, we certainly think so – Ed)
The Herald reports :
By Brian Currie
Published on 11 Feb 2010
Nicola Sturgeon was last night facing demands for her resignation after it was revealed she gave a character reference to a convicted fraudster.
The Deputy First Minister wrote a letter of support for father-of-five Abdul Rauf after he defrauded £80,000 from the Department for Work and Pensions.
The letter was produced at Glasgow Sheriff Court yesterday and handed to Sheriff Alan MacKenzie by defence advocate Donald Findlay, QC.
He said it was the first time in his career he had handed over a letter from someone of such importance.
Rauf, 59, who was jailed for four years for fraud in 1996, was due to be sentenced for his latest crime after admitting defrauding the DWP between 2001 and 2006.
Ms Sturgeon, who admitted she knew of Mr Rauf’s previous conviction, said she had written the letter to the court because, as his MSP, she was “duty-bound” to make reasonable representations on behalf of constituents.
A spokesman for Ms Sturgeon said she had “represented her constituent entirely properly and appropriately”.
However, Labour leader Iain Gray said she had made “an appalling error of judgment”.
Last week Ms Sturgeon and First Minister Alex Salmond were caught up in a row over claims of “cash for access” when it emerged lunch dates with the pair at the Scottish Parliament were auctioned to raise money for the SNP.
Mr Gray said: “If the facts of the case are as they appear and Nicola Sturgeon made such an appalling error of judgment she must resign.
“Last week she was selling access to raise funds for the SNP. Now she is prepared to give a character reference for a convicted fraudster.”
Bill Aitken, the Conservative justice spokesman, said her letter was “ill-considered”.
“It is extraordinary to describe a second conviction for fraud as a mistake. Either Ms Sturgeon didn’t care about his previous fraud conviction or she didn’t check. Either would be unbelievable and a grave lapse of judgment.”
LibDem spokesman Mike Rumbles said: “It beggars belief that the Deputy First Minister could think it appropriate to write in support of a convicted fraudster who is now facing another conviction.”
He said Mr Salmond should explain his deputy’s actions at First Minister’s Questions today and that Ms Sturgeon should “clear the air” by making a statement to parliament.
Prosecutor Adele MacDonald told the court that Rauf, who has a £400,000 house in Maxwell Park, Glasgow, applied for income support in October 2001. She said: “He completed paperwork declaring that he owned his property at Springkell Avenue and that he had £67 in savings in a bank account.”
It was subsequently discovered that he also owned a £200,000 property in Newington, Edinburgh, and was receiving £650 a month rent while claiming benefits over a five-year period.
Sheriff MacKenzie told Rauf that a jail sentence was “at the forefront” of his mind.
The earlier conviction for Mr Rauf, a former sub-postmaster, was for stealing £58,624 in pension and benefit payments by forging signatures on almost 800 DSS payment orders and keeping the cash for himself.
In her letter Ms Sturgeon says Mr Rauf suffers poor health, has young children and urges the court to “consider alternatives to a custodial sentence”.
Ms Sturgeon yesterday defended her involvement in the case. She said she was “not aware” of having met Mr Rauf socially and an SNP spokesperson said he was not a donor to the party and not a member of it.
Saying she was “duty-bound” to make reasonable representations on behalf of constituent, Ms Sturgeon added: “That’s what I did but ultimately the decision is for the court to take.”
“I don’t condone the behaviour of anyone who breaks the law,” she added.