A "prime mover" in a gang involved in a crash-for-cash fraud that police believe attempted to swindle as much as £5.6 million through bogus or inflated insurance claims has gone on the run after fleeing from court.
Samoon Baryali, 39, was one of six men due to be sentenced at London's Isleworth Crown Court over a 2013 plot which saw them set up a deliberate road shunt in a car rigged with cameras and microphones by an undercover Metropolitan Police officer who infiltrated their group.
But Baryali, from Barnet in north London, disappeared just before Judge Simon David was due to hand down sentences, and was jailed for five and a half years in his absence for three counts of conspiracy to defraud. A warrant has been issued for the arrest of the father of four.
The court heard Scotland Yard sent the undercover officer to infiltrate the group, posing as a man in need of work, in the summer of 2013.
He became embroiled in a scheme where his Ford Mondeo was deliberately crashed into a third-party vehicle on a London road, using a "decoy" car which braked heavily in front of his, causing it to do the same and send the innocent party - in this case a woman - crashing into the back of him, making her liable for blame.
The gang then made exaggerated or totally false insurance claims for damage to the car, plus personal injury claims for people who were not even in the car. Had it succeeded it would have led to a payout of around £30,000.
The court heard that the men's driving was skilled but so dangerous that the undercover officer, who was in the back of the Mondeo, considered pulling the plug on the operation through safety fears for other road users.
Judge Davis, sentencing the six men, said: "This type of offence is prevalent. This was, in my view, a sophisticated, professional and planned criminal enterprise. It was dishonestly run in each of its departments. The evidence demonstrates that it is highly lucrative."
Scotland Yard said previously the gang operated a claims management company called Herald Claims Limited from an office block in north London, where fraudulent or inflated insurance claims would be submitted following crash-for-cash collisions, which had been orchestrated by the gang.
Detectives said the investigation identified that the gang would recruit car owners who would be willing to hand over their cars to be deliberately crashed into - commonly referred to as the stooge vehicle. Police believe the company made claims totalling £5.6 million.
The court heard today that Baryali was the decoy driver and was sentenced for three counts of conspiracy to defraud over his role in the Mondeo crash, a second days later involving another car, and for filing other bogus insurance claims worth £111,000.
His younger brother Mohammed Samoon, 28, also of Barnet, was jailed for three years for conspiracy to defraud over the fake insurance claims.
Jalid Hanadzai, 24, an Afghan former asylum seeker described in court as a "professional" driver, was driving the Mondeo and the Peugeot in the second crash, and was jailed for 24 months in total for two counts of conspiracy to defraud.
Afaq Anjem, from Salford, Greater Manchester, a director of Alpha Legal Associates, which processed the bogus Mondeo crash claim, was jailed for two years for one count of conspiracy to defraud.
Yousaf Haider, 45, of Newham in east London, who acted as a middleman and claim holder, was sentenced to two years in prison suspended for two years for the same offence.
Bangladeshi Mohammad Miah 38, from Hounslow, who acted as a go-between for Baryali and the undercover detective, was sentenced to 21 months suspended for two years for the same offence.