Page last updated at 14:56 GMT, Wednesday, 13 May 2009 15:56 UK

Ex-councillor jailed over fraud

St Albans Crown Court
Shah was jailed by a judge at St Albans Crown Court

A former Liberal Democrat councillor has been jailed for 12 months for stealing £55,000 from the company in Hertfordshire that employed him.

Vijay Shah, of Clayton Avenue, Wembley, pleaded guilty to 11 counts of fraud at delivery company EJ Masters.

Shah, 45, continued to sit as an Independent for Wembley Central on Brent Council after his arrest, St Albans Crown Court was told.

His deception was uncovered when he lost his job over another matter.

Shah gave a false reference to a woman from India who had applied for a job, the court heard.

A new accountant was hired and Shah's fraud was discovered.

Sophisticated fraud

Sentencing him, Judge Simon Carr said: "Responsibility comes with public office.

"Those who take public office have incurred a responsibility to ensure they are above reproach. You singularly failed to do this."

I accept you did not use the money for an extravagant lifestyle, you used it to pay the bills we all face
Judge Simon Carr

Prosecutor David Chrimes said Shah had been employed as an accountant at EJ Masters in Kings Langley for 10 years.

Over 11 months between February and December 2007 he embarked on a sophisticated fraud in which he corrupted the firm's computer system, the court was told.

Defence barrister Chris Georgiou said Shah had resigned from the Liberal Democrats on his arrest.

"He is now an independent councillor, but he will lose that position from today," he said.

He said Shah had suffered stress after details of his conviction had been publicised.

Mr Georgiou said the money he had taken had not been spent on a lavish lifestyle and that he had repaid it all.

Judge Carr told him: "I accept you did not use the money for an extravagant lifestyle.

"You used it to pay the bills we all face."

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