North Berwick man involved in £3.3 million fraud scheme against university, court hears

Geoff Turnbull and Aasim Johar orchestrated a fraudulent scheme to obtain hospitality, vouchers, money and goods at the expense of the University of Edinburgh, a jury was told.

During the decade-long scam, goods were ordered and paid for even though they were not needed and not always delivered.

The total fraud amounted to £3,338,943, with a further fraud attempt worth £136,478.

Johar, 53, known to Turnbull as Alan Scott, received an eight per cent commission on the escalating sale to the university and Turnbull received gifts, hospitality and vouchers.

When police searched the home of Turnbull, the former deputy director of estates and buildings at the University of Edinburgh, in Rhodes Park in North Berwick in April 2016, they found gift vouchers for Tesco, a voucher for Next, Marks & Spencer vouchers and a gift voucher for Rocco Forte Hotels.

They also discovered iPads, iPhones and Apple watches purchased through staff at Bromley-based Universal Solutions (International), for whom Johar worked in sales.

‘Serious matters’

Johar, of Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, had denied committing the fraud between June 2005 and November 2015 and claimed there was no wrongdoing on his part.

But a jury at the High Court in Edinburgh unanimously found him guilty of the crimes.

His counsel Ronnie Renucci KC applied for bail for the first offender while a background report was prepared on him ahead of sentencing next month.

But today (Friday) the judge, Lord Lake, told Johar: “You have been found guilty of fraud and attempted fraud. As Mr Renucci recognises, both are serious matters.”

He said he had decided not to pursue bail and remanded him in custody ahead of his sentencing hearing.

Solicitor depute Erin Campbell said Johar and Turnbull – who has now died – had taken part in a tender fraud, with Turnbull ordering increasing quantities of cleaning products and other items from Universal Solutions.

She said the Crown alleged that between June 2005 and the end of November 2015, the only cases conducted between Johar and Turnbull were “the fraud case”.

She said Turnbull placed the orders with the company and received a large number of “promotions” for himself, some of which were returned to Johar and some to others.

‘More and more brutal’

The prosecutor said: “The evidence shows that many of the goods were never delivered and those that were were not needed by the university.”

The court heard the company set aside a percentage of revenue from sales for promotions that could be used for tickets to major sporting events, such as the British Grand Prix or football matches in the English Premier League, along with shopping and hospitality vouchers and other gifts .

The prosecutor said: “The evidence shows that Geoff Turnbull regularly received high-level gifts and that Aasim Johar received commission.”

“This was money coming from a huge institution with significant resources. The fraud started small and grew and grew, I think, as those involved became bolder and bolder,” she said.

“Geoff Turnbull and Aasim Johar lined their own pockets under the pretext of a legitimate business relationship between the two organizations they represented,” she said.

Ms Campbell said it was clear some cleaning products were being supplied, but claimed most of them had not been supplied.

She said Turnbull was a senior strategic manager but placed all orders with the company and met drivers to sign for deliveries.

The lawyer deputy said: “He did not want to delegate these tasks because he knew this was an ongoing fraud.”

Johar was served papers for a criminal action to recover any illegal profits from him.

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