Man convicted in child sex inquiry
A restaurant boss is facing a lengthy jail sentence after he became the last of a string of men to be convicted of child sex offences on girls in Peterborough.
Married businessman Mohammed Khubaib, 43, originally from Pakistan, had a "persistent and almost predatory interest" in teenage girls, the Old Bailey heard.
He groomed vulnerable under-age girls by giving them money, gifts or cigarettes before plying them with alcohol.
Following a trial at the Old Bailey he was found guilty of forcing a 14-year-old girl to perform a sex act on him and nine counts of trafficking for sexual exploitation involving girls aged from 12 to 15 between November 2010 and January 2013.
His South African friend Manase Motaung, 32, was cleared of raping a 16-year-old and seven trafficking charges, involving six girls.
Khubaib's conviction brings the total number of people to be convicted under Operation Erle to 10, of which five are of Pakistani origin.
Khubaib was remanded in custody and warned he faces a long spell behind bars when he is sentenced on May 15.
Judge Peter Rook QC told him: "You have been convicted of a very serious offence of a rape on a young girl... having plied her with vodka.
"You have also been convicted of no less than nine trafficking offences in relation to under-age girls who you were deliberately plying with vodka so that you could take advantage of them, knowing they craved vodka so you could exploit them sexually.
"You must know the only sentence is a custodial sentence - and a long sentence."
The jury was deliberating for less than a day before it reached its verdicts.
Four previous cases led to nine male defendants being jailed for 59 offences against 15 girls, from Peterborough, with a couple from Lincolnshire and Rutland.
The court heard that Khubaib's activities in Peterborough involved girls being befriended and then "hooked" with alcohol - normally vodka - in an attempt to make them "compliant" to sexual advances.
Khubaib, who lived in the city with his wife and children, would pursue his interest "away from his home and family", using his restaurant as a "focal point".
Mark Dennis QC, prosecuting, said the girls were vulnerable because of their age, background, circumstances or unsettled schooling and Khubaib pretended to be their "friend and helper".
Khubaib, who also ran a lettings agency, would drive girls to flats in his 4x4 and, once there, they would be groomed for sex by being "plied with alcohol and entertained by himself and his friends".
Khubaib raped a 14-year-old girl in August 2007 by forcing her to perform oral sex on him after she was given alcohol and then "rewarded" with £5, the court heard.
The jury heard details of the trafficking allegations.
Khubaib would buy one girl and her friends McDonald's meals and tobacco, as well as giving her small sums of money and a £40 bunch of flowers for her 15th birthday, the court heard.
He told the girl he wanted her to be his wife, saying that he would "choose her over everyone else", while he told another 15-year-old she had beautiful eyes, the jury was told.
When she rebuffed him, saying he was too old for her, he was said to have replied: "Age doesn't matter."
Khubaib allegedly offered another girl £60, telling her: "You make me happy, I'll give you money."
Two weeks later he allegedly increased the offer to £90. The girl refused.
In January 2013, Khubaib picked up two friends - one aged 12 and the other aged 14 - in his seven-seater car and took them to a McDonald's, Mr Dennis said.
The girls became uncomfortable when Khubaib got into a row on his phone and slipped away.
Later that month, the defendants were arrested at a terrace house in Peterborough, where police found two girls aged 14.
Khubaib said in police interviews that his association with all of the girls was innocent and he had not acted in any improper way, denying any sexual contact with the girl he is said to have raped.
Motaung also denied wrongdoing by saying he had consensual sex with the rape complainant.
The two defendants, both from Peterborough, denied the charges.
Cambridgeshire Police and Peterborough City Council launched a "victim-led" inquiry after identifying a number of young people who might have been at risk of sexual exploitation towards the end of 2012.
The joint investigation was proactively initiated in response to the Rotherham and Rochdale child abuse cases.
A police spokesman said: "We have made great efforts to safeguard these young people, win their confidence and explore what they told us. As a result of the information given to us, we launched a number of investigations. A police investigation formally began in early January 2013."
A number of the victims were in care at the time and had problems at home and school while the abusers' ethnicity reflected the local demographic - Portuguese and eastern European, as well as Asian/Pakistani men.
Following the verdict, Detective Superintendent Gary Ridgway, of Cambridgeshire Police, said: "I'm pleased with the verdicts today because not only does it acknowledge the seriousness of this behaviour but also the courage of the young people who were able to face their abuser in court.
"I think it demonstrates when agencies genuinely work together and take this form of exploitation seriously justice can be served.
"This investigation is over two years old and I do not underestimate the impact on some of the young people involved.
"I would like to thank colleagues, not only within the police but Peterborough children's services, adult services, education, NSPCC and Crown Prosecution Service."
One of Khubaib's victims, who was 14 at the time, said in a victim impact statement: "It was disgusting what he did to me. Before that happened, I was a typical 13-year-old who didn't know any better and thought that Mohammed was my friend who I had under my thumb.
"Now I know that he was the one with the control. I should have known better than to accept alcohol and things from Mohammed, but actually he was the one who should have known better.
"As a parent now, if I knew my child was out with an older man, I would be out looking for them, and I would be angry as to why a grown man would want to spend time with young teenagers."
The mother of another 14-year-old said: "When we first found that our daughter had been trafficked, her father and I were concerned that she wasn't being entirely honest with us, and that more might have happened than she told us. She was upset because she didn't know how her father and I would react.
"When the police got involved that was when it really started to affect her as to what predicament she got herself into.
"She wouldn't go out for months on her own. She felt very confined to the house. She shouldn't have ended up feeling like that. It made her father and I feel like we couldn't protect her.
"We felt that we should have been keeping a closer eye on her. I thank God that nothing worse had happened. We still think that we are lucky that she is here and safe.
"When the full extent of the case came to light, we did say how proud we are of her for giving evidence and preventing other girls from getting in this predicament."
Wendi Ogle-Welbourn, corporate director of People and Communities at Peterborough City Council, said: "We are pleased with this verdict today as it represents justice for the girls and young women who suffered at the hands of this vicious criminal.
"What was different in Peterborough is that having followed other places like Rotherham and Oxford we knew we must have child sexual exploitation in our city.
"So along with the police we went out looking for it, and when we did we found it; and where we found it we took decisive action which has led to today's conviction and the others we have secured over the last 18 months."
An NSPCC spokesman said: "No child should experience what these girls have been through.
"Mohammed Khubaib subjected them to appalling ordeals but he will now have to pay for his crimes as a result of the victims' bravery in giving evidence. "