Transatlantic fraud uncovered

A TRANSATLANTIC fraud scam was uncovered after an 18-month investigation spearheaded by British Transport Police.The startling extent of the crimes can be revealed today as the background to a rape trial, which resulted in Abdul Hassan being found not guilty of raping a mother-of-two this week.

By Tracey Sparling

A TRANSATLANTIC fraud scam was uncovered after an 18-month investigation spearheaded by British Transport Police.

The startling extent of the crimes can be revealed today as the background to a rape trial, which resulted in Abdul Hassan being found not guilty of raping a mother-of-two this week.

A jury at Ipswich Crown Court on Monday, cleared the 23-year-old, of Manor Park, London, of raping a 22-year-old woman on a train after a trial lasting almost a week.

The Evening Star can today reveal the full story, which saw determined British Transport Police officers enlisting help from colleagues in Canada for the investigation code-named Operation Onedia.

Until now, legal reasons meant other cases involved were unable to be reported, but today the Evening Star can reveal the full saga and tell how the rape trial was a result of transatlantic investigations into credit card fraud.

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On March 28 last year, three men were involved in the allegation of rape on a train between Ipswich and Colchester.

They were caught on CCTV cameras at both Ipswich and Liverpool Street stations, but there was no other physical evidence to corroborate the woman's account.

Lengthy enquiries and witness appeals, including an anniversary visit to Ipswich Station a week later, yielded few clues.

But Anglia Railways staff said three men fitting the description of the alleged offenders had bought tickets on that train, with a credit card, as it left Colchester.

Close liaison with Barclaycard UK fraud investigators followed, and the card became the only active line of enquiry for the rape investigation.

A team of BTP detectives led by DC Alan Reed, then scoured hours of CCTV footage from shops and petrol stations in Ipswich, London and across the South East, and made arrests for conspiracy to defraud Barclaycard.

DC Reed investigated six Barclaycard accounts, which had received forged cheques to the value of £250,000. The cheques purported to be from Canadian banks but to prove in court that they were forgeries, officers had to travel to get sworn depositions from Bank of Montreal in Toronto and the Royal Bank of Canada.

Sergeant Bob Munn, officer in charge, said: "If we hadn't done that, the defence could have claimed they were genuine cheques."

DC Reed and a colleague travelled to Canada the week of September 11, and enlisted the help of the National Criminal Intelligence Service, Interpol, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the Toronto, Metropolitan and other police forces.

DC Reed said Barclaycard UK senior manager Phil Vickers' help was "pivotal" to the investigation.

He added: "This was an intelligence-led operation, involving the assistance of other agencies."

While in custody for the rape allegation, Abdul Hassan admitted two counts of deception at crown court, and received a one-month prison sentence.

Two other men, Faisal Massoud and Hassan Ali were arrested for rape but were never charged.

The trials:

The jury at Bury Crown Court in March, heard Mohidin Abubaker and Hassan Ali ran up transactions of around £6,800 paying for everything from flowers via Interflora to train tickets on their pal's card.

And when bankers questioned Inderjeet Dhillon about his credit card, he claimed he had never used it and all transactions made on it were in dispute.

Weeks after the credit card was issued to Dhillon, 22, of Grovelands Way, Grays in Essex, in February last year, money was being spent from the account but Dhillon claimed that all transactions were nothing to do with him. The court heard Dhillon claimed the card and information were stolen.

Suspicions were raised when a cheque for 24,721 Canadian dollars (£10,878) was deposited into Dhillon's account from a Canadian account at the Bank of Montreal but it turned out to be a forgery.

The money was "paid in to give the impression that all was well with the account," Charles Judge, prosecuting, told the court.

Mr Judge said the card could not have been used without the Personal Idenification Number or other personal details, which Dhillon must have given out.

The jury heard that on April 2 last year, Abubaker was captured on security camera at an Ipswich petrol station spending £17.48 on Dhillon's account and signing in his name.

Five days later, Ali and Abubaker were both caught on CCTV camera buying £1,248 worth of electrical goods at Tesco, Copdock.

Dhillon was arrested on May 29 and told BTP detectives he had never used the card or given out its details.

Mr Judge said Dhillon was "part and parcel of what was going on. There was a clear agreement between these young me to defraud the bank."

Hassan and Abubaker pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud Barclays Plc.

Dhillon and Hamza Ahmed denied the charge. Ahmed was cleared by a jury and Dhillon was found guilty and given 240 hours community service.

Abubacker was jailed for four months, and Ali was given 120 hours community service.

In another trial at Bury Crown Court, Hassan Ali was jailed for 11 months for attacking a taxi driver with a hammer.

He was convicted of causing actual bodily harm, after Suffolk Police gathered evidence.

After Abdul Hassan was aquitted of rape, Sgt Munn said: "While the file remains open we are not looking for anybody else in connection with this incident."

He said a thorough investigation had been carried out, and added: "It was a lot of hard work, and it would have been very easy to take our eyes off the ball."

DC Reed said: "We hope that with the trial behind her now, the woman can continue to rebuild her life."

Sgt Munn reassured rail passengers and said: "We must stress that travelling by train in this area, and country, is generally very safe.

"The fact that this particular case has attracted such interest from the media is testimony to the fact that it is unusual.

"Anglia Railways do staff their trains and we would say to people travelling late at night to use their common sense as they would if parking their car, for example - stay in well-lit areas near other people."