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'Cash for crash' accused convicted

Members of one of the biggest fraud rings seen in the car insurance industry were convicted of being involved in a £5 million "cash for crash" scam, police revealed.

The gang, based in Luton, Beds, engineered crashes involving unsuspecting motorists as well as making claims about "entirely fictitious" accidents, police said.

The convictions of more than 30 people came after research showed insurance premiums soared by a record 40% during the past year, as high levels of fraud and personal injury claims push up the cost of cover.

A five-year investigation finished on Thursday with three of the last four defendants found guilty at the Luton Crown Court.

The probe, dubbed Operation Exhort, saw 39 defendants appear at crown court at separate hearings over three years, representing one of the largest fraud rings the industry has seen.

Earlier court proceedings could not be published until now due to legal reasons, police said.

Bedfordshire Police said the entire investigation led to 33 defendants pleading guilty to a variety of offences in connection with the £5.3 million insurance fraud. The remaining eight pleaded not guilty at two separate trials - seven have been convicted and one acquitted. A further eight were cautioned for their involvement.

On Thursday, Kamsan Mahmood, 42, of Long Meadow Farm, Chalton; Istafa Hussain, 35, of Lincoln Road, Luton; and Peter Charlery, 45, of Long Meadow Farm, Chalton, were all found guilty of conspiracy to defraud, Bedfordshire Police said. Irtiza Fazal, 40, of Lincoln Road was acquitted by the jury after a seven-week trial.

Mahmood, Hussain and Charlery have been remanded in custody to be sentenced on April 27 at Luton Crown Court.

Police, who investigated with the Insurance Fraud Bureau, said they uncovered a web of deceit involving people from professions including the legal, medical and motor trade.

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