Cricklewood man has £20k benefit fraud conviction quashed

Adel Abdulwaheb Sunalla won his appeal

Adel Abdulwaheb Sunalla won his appeal - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Ima

A Cricklewood man convicted of a £20,000 benefit fraud has cleared his name at the Court of Appeal.

Adel Abdulwaheb Sunalla, 41, of Caney Mews, had always denied having undeclared savings in an Islamic bank while claiming £20,598 in income support.

He was handed a 12-week suspended sentence at Harrow Crown Court in March, last year, after he was convicted of failing to notify the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of a change in circumstances.

But three senior judges at London’s Appeal Court today quashed the “unsafe” conviction and exonerated him.

Mr Justice Haddon-Cave said Mr Sunalla made a claim for income support in early 2005. During later communications between 2006 and 2009 he declared that he had no savings.

Anyone with savings over £16,000 are not entitled to the benefit, and those with more than £6,000 must be means tested, the judge explained.

It was the prosecution case that Mr Sunalla had opened four Islamic bank accounts, through which thousands had passed, while claiming the benefit.

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However, during a police interview, Mr Sunalla had told DWP investigators he had no bank account aside from his Natwest current account.

At his trial, Mr Sunalla accepted opening the accounts but said the money in them belonged to a Libyan friend who was unable to do so himself due to rules which then barred Libyans from transferring their wealth to the UK.

The Libyan man gave evidence in support of Mr Sunalla’s defence.

Clearing him yesterday, Mr Justice Haddon-Cave, sitting with Sir Brian Leveson and Mr Justice Globe, said the court had detected a crucial flaw in the trial judge’s summing up of the case to the jury which rendered Mr Sunalla’s trial unfair.

He said: “This was a material omission which renders the verdict unsafe. The conviction is quashed.”