Takeaway boss fraudulently tried to pocket £20k in Covid support payments

A takeaway boss has been fined after attempting to falsely claim £20,000 in Government Covid grants his business was not entitled to.

An investigation from Manchester City Council was launched into Ajibola Jerimiah Adenuga, of Suya Republick, in February 2022. The case was initially referred to Internal Audit as a result of the 35-year-old applying for an Omicron Hospitality and Leisure Grant (OHLG) of £2,667.

This grant was declined and referred for investigation after it was found that Adenuga was running a takeaway, rather than a restaurant as claimed in his application. Takeaways were not eligible under this scheme as they were not required to close.

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Following the investigation, it was found that he had also received a Local Restrictions Support Grant (LRSG) totaling £9,669.21 claiming to be a sexual entertainment and hostess bar - when operating as a takeaway.

Mr Adenuga also received a Restart Grant (RG) of £8,000, claiming to be an outdoor bar supplying alcoholic beverages when actually operating as a takeaway.

Mr Adenuga was interviewed twice by council officers following the investigation in June and July 2022. He admitted that he had made false applications to support his business. He confirmed he had supplied false applications and documentation but was not able to claim any other funding to support his business.

In total, Adenuga – through his business – benefited from £17,669.21 in fraudulent Covid support grant claims - and attempted to claim a further £2,667. A total of £20,336.21

Adenuga pleaded guilty to the total of six offences at a magistrates' court hearing on November 17 2023 before being sentenced at a separate hearing on May 31.

Mr Adenuga, of The Gardens, Eccles, was sentenced to a 12 month community order and 200 hours unpaid work with five rehabilitation activity requirement (RAR) days attached, costs of £1,400 plus a £114 Victim Surcharge. The court also suspended his personal licence to sell alcohol for two months.

This sentence was for three charges under the Fraud Act 2006 as director of Ministry of Booze Group Limited.

The company, registered at an address on Chester Road in Manchester as Ministry of Booze - trading name Suya Republick - was also fined £1,000, along with £1,400 in costs under the Fraud Act 2006 for three offences. The court also ordered the company to pay a £400 victims surcharge.

Cllr Rabnawaz Akbar, Manchester City Council’s executive member for finance, said: “Covid grants were made available to support businesses who were at threat of failing because of the impact of the pandemic and grants were paid out in good faith that they were supporting our residents to weather the lockdowns.

“Defrauding this system for personal gain flies in the face of the spirit of support that the grant fund intended. I hope this case shows other people who have committed similar crimes that when we find you, we will investigate, and we will take the case through the court to seek justice.”