Flagship free school founder and two staff guilty over £150,000 fraud
The founder of a flagship free school and two staff have been warned they could be jailed after being found guilty of fraudulently obtaining around £150,000 from government grants.
Sajid Hussain Raza, 43, Shabana Hussain, 40, and Daud Khan, 44, were convicted by a jury at Leeds Crown Court of making payments into their own bank accounts from Department for Education grants given to help set up the Kings Science Academy in Bradford in 2011.
The defendants showed no emotion as they stood in the dock and listened as the jury foreman returned unanimous guilty verdicts on all charges.
The jury of five men and seven women had been deliberating for just over one day after hearing evidence in the six-week trial.
Judge Christopher Batty told the defendants: "You have been convicted of serious offences and I am very much considering custody in each of your cases."
The academy, which was opened in 2011, was praised by then prime minister David Cameron during a high-profile visit in March 2012. It has since become part of the Dixons Academies Trust and is now called Dixons Kings Academy.
Grant cash used for mortgage repayments
The trial heard that Raza, the founder and principal of the school, used some of the money to make mortgage repayments for rental properties he owned to alleviate his own financial problems.
But he told the jury the suggestion that he used public money to cover his debts was "unbelievable''.
The fraudulent activity continued for three years, between November 2010 and December 2013, despite senior civil servants expressing concern about Raza's leadership and financial management.
Raza was found guilty of four counts of fraud, three counts of false accounting and two counts of obtaining money by deception.
Hussain, a teacher at the school and Raza's sister, was convicted of one count of fraud and one count of obtaining property by deception.
Khan, the financial director at the school, was found guilty of two counts of fraud and three counts of false accounting.
Kings Science Academy was among the first wave of free schools set up as part of a flagship education policy introduced by the government following the 2010 general election.