Mr Shafiq Sultan, Director of On Time Claims (High Wycombe), pleaded guilty to contempt of court and was led away in handcuffs as a result of his participation in a fraudulent claim worth an estimated £182,620.16.
In July 2012 Admiral became aware of a suspicious incident involving their insured, Mrs Anna Szkurlat, and the third party driver, Mr Shafiq Sultan. At first glance the collision appeared to be genuine but upon further investigation it was found that the damage to both vehicles was entirely inconsistent with the circumstances that had been reported.
Admiral were also able to link Mr Sultan to On Time Claims (High Wycombe), the company who were pursuing charges for recovery and storage.
Given the strength of the engineering evidence (the claimant’s vehicle had sustained at least four separate impacts) and numerous inconsistencies with the alleged accident circumstances, Admiral repudiated both claims and imagined that would be the last they would hear from Mr Sultan and his solicitors, Taylor, Knight & Wolff.
However, despite the overwhelming evidence against him, Mr Sultan nevertheless provided authority to issue proceedings. Admiral instructed Clyde & Co Solicitors to carry out further investigations and plead a robust fraud defence.
The matter proceeded to a trial in front of District Judge Graham Jones in the Slough County Court on 20 November 2015. Following a thorough cross-examination by Adam Rhys-Davis of Park Square Chambers, Mr Sultan attempted to discontinue his claim to avoid the Court handing down what would inevitably have been a damning judgment.
Admiral went for an innovative approach and adopted the hard line tactic of applying to have the notice of discontinuance set aside, successfully arguing this was a cynical attempt by Mr Sultan to cut and run.
To add to Mr Sultan's woes, Taylor, Knight and Wollf then removed themselves from the Court record, leaving him to fend for himself.
In the final analysis, the Trial judge made the following findings of fact:
• There was clear evidence of collusion between the parties involved.
• The accident did not take place at the location provided.
• The damage to Mr Sultan’s vehicle was inconsistent with the alleged circumstances.
• There was clear evidence that Mr Sultan had lied throughout the litigation process.
Ultimately, DJ Jones found himself:
"Driven to the conclusion that the only explanation which adequately explains the findings is that the claim was instigated and prosecuted fraudulently."
The strength of the judgment was a significant factor in Admiral's decision to issue committal proceedings against Mr Sultan for contempt of court.
The High Court granted permission to pursue him and a date was set for the contempt proceedings to be heard.
Remarkably, it was not until the day before the final hearing that Mr Sultan finally confirmed he would be pleading guilty to contempt of court.
The matter went before Mrs Justice O'Farrell of the High Court who handed down a custodial sentence of nine months together with confirmation that Mr Sultan would lose his Ministry of Justice licence to operate as a Claims Management Director.
Commenting on the outcome, Susan Evans, Head of Counter Fraud at Admiral, said:
“Shafiq Sultan engineered a staged accident where he anticipated personally benefiting to the tune of £35k. Engineers' reports and medical evidence were produced in support of this wholly fabricated claim. Mr Sultan was all too familiar with the claims process, being involved in the Accident Management Industry and being licensed by the Ministry of Justice. When he realised that Admiral had uncovered his scam he attempted to discontinue his court action.
It has taken a long time to get to this point but we are happy with the nine month prison sentence that he received and also that he will no longer be able to hold a licence from the Ministry of Justice when he is released from prison."
Damian Rourke, Legal Director at Clyde & Co who had conduct of the case, said:
"This case stands out as a significant result for both Admiral and the Industry.
Any compensation systems relies to a greater or lesser degree on trust, and the fact that the Director of a Claims Management Company (a supposed "gatekeeper") has attempted to abuse that trust in such a calculated way is particularly troubling.
In our view, there was a discernible level of both arrogance and complacency in the way Mr Sultan prosecuted this fabricated claim.
Unfortunately for Mr Sultan, he realised far too late that he was not as untouchable as he seemed to imagine he was. We can only hope that the penny will drop sooner for others in his position."