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Fraud simple enough for child

BECOMING a bogus trainer under the ill-fated individual learning account scheme system was so easy a 10-year-old could have done it, a court heard this week.

ILAs were withdrawn in November 2001 following allegations of millions of pounds worth of fraud and concerns about sub-standard training.

No qualifications were required to become a trainer, there was no minimum age, and the scheme was wide open to abuse, Coventry Crown Court heard.

Michael Joyce, the prosecuting barrister, said: "You didn't need to be particularly sophisticated or cunning, but you had to be persistent."

Five defendants, all of whom pleaded guilty, were sentenced on 18 counts of ILA fraud on Friday last week. Colin French, 36, from Ashton, Northampton, was jailed for a year after submitting claims for providing pound;12,050 worth of training when he was, in fact, on holiday in the South of France.

Gamal Eboe, 32, from Brighton, received an eight-month sentence, suspended for two years, after submitting claims worth pound;3,000 for providing training when he was holidaying in the Greek islands.

Anthony Mann, 34, from Northampton, his brother Keith, 36, from Evesham and Kate Fowler, 32, from Pycombe, Sussex, were said to be agents for French.

The Manns received community punishment orders and Fowler was fined.

Mr Joyce added: "There seem to have been insufficient checks. The whole system was undermined by the substantial frauds that took place and it had to be wound up."

Jeremy Chipperfield, representing Eboe, said: "It was very easy to register as a learning provider - so easy a 10-year-old could do it."

Judge Patrick Eccles QC said: "This was a beneficial scheme. But it was widely manipulated because it was flawed in a number of ways."

The five were arrested as part of a National Crime Squad investigation into animal rights extremists, although Judge Eccles said: "I accept that these offences have nothing to do with those activities."

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