A POPULAR Quinton fast food chain has been revealed as a front for a money laundering scam which has led to to its award-winning head chef and a bank manager being jailed.
Chop and Wok, which opened its Hagley Road West outlet in January, 2012 and has premises in Birmingham city centre, Shirley and Sutton Coldfield, was investigated by the West Midlands Police Economic Crime Unit.
A complicated web of bank accounts and overdrafts had to be linked for the police to incriminate bank manager Amarjit Singh and Chop and Wok head chef Abdul Kaium.
Singh, aged 33, was sentenced to four years after admitting money laundering and fraud by abuse of position at Birmingham Crown Court.
He worked at the Harborne branch of Lloyds TSB as a relationship manager, where his job was to take on new business clients for the bank.
Singh, from Landgate Road, Handsworth, set about creating a fraudulent £100,000 overdraft for his brother-in-law in 2008.
His plan was to use his sister’s husband as the legitimate ‘face’ of what would be the highly successful new ‘Chop and Wok’ business.
The cash went in to fitting out the flagship pan-Asian first takeaway in Birmingham which was also owned by head chef Abdul Kaium.
Kaium, from Broadyates Road in Yardley, is well-known on the business scene after beating 399 other hopefuls to be awarded Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2012 by the Black Country Asian Business Association.
The 33-year-old was the man behind the unique sauces and menu specific to the noodle bar but he was unable to curry favour with the judge and was sentenced to two year and nine months.
The dramatic rise of Chop and Wok only came about after Singh signed-off a £240,000 loan for Kaium, under the pretence that he was a qualified pharmacist about to set up a supplying business.
In summer 2011 bosses at the bank looked in to the loan and quickly discovered the premises Kaium was using as the ‘pharmaceutical warehouse’ was actually one of the restaurants.
Suspecting a high-level fraud, they referred their findings to detectives at West Mildands Police’s Economic Crime Unit, who launched a criminal inquiry.
Investigating officer, DC Brent Di Cesare, said: “When we pieced together the all the parts of the puzzle we found Singh was the man behind the scheme, using his brother-in-law and Kaium as the faces of the business.
“Singh and Kaium were regularly transferring the hundreds of thousands of pounds, stolen from Lloyds TSB, between their accounts – and Kaium even used some of the cash to buy a house.
He added: “The reason for the success and explosion of Chop and Wok was in no small part down to the £340,000 that was obtained by Amarjit Singh whilst he was working at Lloyds TSB.
“Singh was in a position of trust at the bank but abused it for his own financial gain, building a profitable firm based completely on criminality."