Financial adviser jailed for fraud

Mohammad Izhar Ul HaqHMRC

Financial adviser, Mohammad Izhar Ul Haq, 59, of Cleveley Crescent, Ealing, has been jailed for five years for forgery. He had faked documents to enable one of his clients to steal £900,000 - and then gambled away his share of the proceeds.

So what did he do, and is it safe to trust an adviser?
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The fraud

Haq forged a bank guarantee from the Bank of America, which enabled his client to claim a £900,000 VAT repayment from HM Revenue & Customs.

Martin Brown, Assistant Director of HM Revenue & Customs Criminal Investigation said: "Haq presented himself as a trustworthy financial adviser, but instead he showed that he was an ingenious document forger. HMRC will not tolerate attacks on public funds. We will investigate anyone found attempting tax fraud and protect taxpayers' money from criminals like Haq."

Lies

During the subsequent investigation, Haq compounded his troubles by repeatedly lying to investigators and his own lawyer.

He claimed he had been paid £20,000 for the service, when in fact he was paid £200,000 - of which £130,000 was paid into gambling accounts he held at London casinos.

He also told his lawyer that he was in Pakistan at the time of the investigation, and could not return to the UK for trial in February this year because he had fallen ill. He even submitted medical certificates that seemed to prove his story, However, HMRC obtained CCTV footage that showed that at the time he was actually gambling in London casinos.

He was then arrested and remanded in custody until his trial. His Honour Judge White said: "Your defence was a sham. The public would expect and deserve a severe sentence in this case." He has been jailed for five years, and then banned from going into casinos and gaming online for three years after his release.

Can you trust?

Thankfully the vast majority of financial advisers are on the level. It's the exceptions to the rule that hit the headlines, so this sort of story shouldn't have us running scared.

Instead, it should remind us that we need to take a bit of time when we choose a financial adviser - not just to check they are honest but to make sure we like them and can work with them too.

1. Start with a list of approved financial advisers in your area. There's a useful list on unbiased.co.uk

2. Look for a specialist in the areas you want to discuss. You can check which exams they have passed. At the very least they should have the Certificate in Financial Planning or Certificate for Financial Advisers. However, you may well want more, so ask if they have tax, pension or investment qualifications (or whatever areas you're interested in).

3. Check their experience. You should also ask if they are chartered or certified - which means they have more experience under their belt.

4. Talk to them. Make sure you are comfortable with them, that they talk in a language you understand, and that you don't feel under any pressure. You should generally not be charged for your initial meeting, so you have a chance to check you're happy with your choice.

5. Ask questions. Most people feel a bit at sea when they get started, but the only way you are going to get to grips with the adviser and their advice is by asking anything that is concerning you. Don't be afraid to say "I don't understand". They are often the three most powerful words you will ever say to an adviser.
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