From The Telegraph
21 December 2018 • 8:28pm
A Cambridge academic who stole £1m from a government green-energy project has been jailed for four years.
Dr Ehsan Abdi-Jalebi, 37, was stopped by Border Force officers at Heathrow with £100,000 in cash in a Thorntons Continental chocolate box as he boarded a flight to Tehran in May 2016.
The discovery prompted an investigation by the National Crime Agency, which found he had used fake documents to siphon off money into his own accounts from funding allocated to the development of renewable energy projects.
He had used the funds to develop a property in Iran worth £900,000 and to lease a Maserati sports car as well as a property in Cambridge.
Abdi-Jalebi had won international acclaim for his work on wind turbines and set up his technology firm Wind Technologies Ltd in 2006.
But, he dishonestly received project funding to the value of £2.8m in grant money from Innovate UK, the EU and The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC).
Investigators discovered that the his firm had made a series of grant applications to the government to fund research, but on a number of occasions Abdi-Jalebi had falsified documents, including invoices, accounts and bank statements to show what was happening to the money.
At the same time he had used the bank accounts of some of his PHD research students to receive what were referenced as “studentship payments” from the companies, with the money then being transferred into his own personal accounts.
Judge Martin Beddoe told Abdi-Jalebi: “Of the funding dishonestly obtained you trousered £1m yourself.”
Wind Technologies Ltd was entitled to grants for part of the costs incurred but not for the total amount, the court heard.
Abdi-Jalebi altered the invoices, increasing Wind Technologies costs to make up for the costs that were not covered by the partial grants.
The company would therefore receive de facto 100 per cent grants instead of partial grants.
Jonathan Polnay, prosecuting, said the fraud was “a long-running course of conduct.”
“The Department of Energy and Climate Change and Innovate UK were submitted forged invoices which resulted in £2.5 million being handed over,” he said.
Following his arrest, Abdi-Jalebi lost his fellowship at Churchill College in Cambridge as the National Crime Agency spent 18 months examining his financial history.
NCA senior investigating officer Ian Truby said: “While the companies that Dr Abdi-Jalebi was involved with were doing some legitimate work in the field of renewable energy, he used them as a cash cow to siphon off money.
“This money had come in as government grants, so it was essentially stolen from taxpayers.
“Through some great detective work and after analysing thousands of documents NCA investigators were able to prove that he was a fraud.
“While we have identified a number of UK assets held by Abdi-Jalebi the likelihood is that most of the money ended up in Iran, which will make it far more difficult to recover.
“However, we will do everything in our power to recover as much of that UK taxpayers’ money as possible.”