Mosque trustee jailed for $1m theft

VICTORIA ROBINSON
Last updated 05:00 14/07/2012

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A trustee for an east Auckland mosque has been jailed for forgery and the theft of more than $1 million.

Mohammed Rafiq Sahib was sentenced yesterday in the Manukau District Court after pleading guilty to four charges of altering a document with intent to deceive and two counts of theft by a person in a special relationship.

Judge Charles Blackie sentenced Sahib to three years and four months in prison.

Sahib was a trustee and the secretary of the East Auckland Islamic Trust.

Over a number of years he dipped into the trust money to prop up his own business ventures.

Judge Blackie said he accepted Sahib intended to pay the money back, but he panicked and resorted to "illegitimate means" to replace the money.

He faked documents to raise a mortgage through BNZ to pay back the trust.

The judge said Sahib sold his house but because the home was leaky he did not receive an amount large enough to pay back BNZ for the money he had borrowed on a fraudulent basis.

More than $6,500 was left outstanding.

Sahib had been paying off the money at $500 per month, and recently increased that amount to $1000 per month.

Because Sahib will be in prison he will no longer be able to pay off the money, and Judge Blackie said because Sahib had a contractual obligation to pay it a civil case may be taken against him.

There were a number of aggravating factors in Sahib's offending, including his position of trust, the fact that the crimes were premeditated and the fact that it occurred over a period of years.

But the judge considered the fact he had no previous offending a mitigating factor, as was the fact that Sahib now had to deal with being isolated and an "outcast" in his community.

Judge Blackie said the members of the trust were now suffering, having to worship in a cold, uninsulated warehouse with the mosque they were saving to build unfinished.

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