Million-dollar Pakuranga mosque thief wins appeal

A trustee for an Auckland mosque jailed for forgery and theft of more than $1 million has had his sentence cut by seven months.

Mohammed Rafiq Sahib was jailed for three years and four months in July last year on charges of altering a document with intent to deceive and two counts of theft by a person in a special relationship.

Sahib was a trustee and the secretary of the East Auckland Islamic Trust and over three years he dipped into the trust’s money to prop up his wife’s struggling business and to buy a house.

In April 2007 Sahib took $60,000 from the trust claiming it was to finalise plans for a mosque they were developing in Pakuranga.

Over the following two years he used the trust’s credit card to obtain $222,364 and $42,562 through trust cheques he deposited into his own accounts.

Sahib then tried to repay the amounts by obtaining a mortgage using a fraudulent document. He altered documents on two occasions to obtain home loans, then on three further occasions to obtain another home loan from BNZ. Sahib also altered documents on four occasions against ANZ.

In total, Sahib obtained $1.3m, but according to a recent High Court appeal the net loss to those involved was significantly less as he was “to an extent, borrowing to repay those who he owed as a consequence of his wrongdoing”.

Sahib, who took a total of $324,926 from the trust had repaid all but $6417.19. He had repaid ANZ, but $266,113.15 was outstanding to BNZ, which meant just over $272,000 was outstanding.

Sahib appealed his jail term arguing that his sentence was “too high” and that the judge had calculated his punishment from a starting point of five years, when three years was more appropriate.

Counsel for Sahib also said he’d done a lot for the Muslim community before committing fraud and had not “frittered the money away on self-indulgent pursuits”.

The High Court found a starting point of four years was more appropriate, then applied the same discounts the sentencing judge had given Sahib – for his early guilty plea and paying back the money owed – giving him a final sentence of two years and nine months.

Million-dollar mosque thief wins appeal