Wife of call centre leader who stole half a million from Yopa goes on trial

The wife of a man who stole £505,000 from Yopa where he was employed as a call centre leader has denied knowing of the crime.

Haroon Cassim worked for both Camelot, which runs the National Lottery, and Yopa, stealing a total of almost £1.5m.

Cassim, 36, described as a problem gambler, pleaded guilty last year and awaits sentencing.

His wife Sofina Sarwar, 34, denies knowing about the “colossal amounts” going through two of her personal bank accounts.

She is on trial accused of three counts of money laundering between 2011 and 2018.

Andrew Peet, prosecuting, told Leicester Crown Court that Cassim’s “annual salary was an average of £45,000 and it would have taken him about 30 years to earn the money stolen on top of his legitimate income”

Mr Peet went on: “The Crown doesn’t say this defendant, Sarwar, was a party to any of the fraud or stealing …

“The Crown says she’s a money launderer.”

He said that of the £960,000 Cassim stole from Camelot, £748,000 was transferred to accounts held in his wife’s name. All of the £505,000 taken from Yopa was transferred into Sarwar’s personal accounts.

Mr Peet said: “These were bank accounts in her name, not his.

“Half a million quid (relating to Yopa) in less than two years.

“It’s more than eyebrow-raising.”

Mr Peet said that Sarwar and Cassim had been planning to buy a house in Leicester, using a deposit of £200,000 which had been dishonestly obtained by Cassim and which was in her account.

Mr Peet said that on the form relating to the proposed house purchase, she had described herself as “self employed”.

However, she accepted being the sole director of a firm set up by her husband, which she believed was to recruit people to work for Yopa.

It was Yopa which discovered the scam, leading to an investigation into Cassim’s dishonesty at his previous employer, Camelot.

Some of the fraud-related invoices presented to Yopa purported to be refurbishment costs for the firm’s offices in Hinckley and Watford. The money was allegedly paid directly into Sawar’s personal accounts.

Last year, Cassim pleaded guilty to five offences of fraud by abuse of position. Three related to Camelot, and two to Yopa, where he was  described as a contact centre leader.

According to his LinkedIn profile he was  interim chief operations officer. In the same profile, he describes himself as having been head of customer service at Camelot UK Lotteries.

Sarwar’s trial continues.


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