A 41-year-old man who used his position as the Irish Football Association's in-house accountant to steal over a quarter of a million pounds from the organisation has been jailed.
As he imposed a 20-month sentence on Muhammad Naeem, which was divided equally between prison and supervised licence, Judge Stephen Fowler QC said Naeem's actions were motivated by greed and trying to impress others.
Naeem, from Drumhirk Avenue in Newtownards, admitted defrauding the IFA of £287,932.92 between January 2018 and August 2019 by abuse of position.
He also pleaded guilty to false accounting over the same period, and of removing criminal property from Northern Ireland - namely £16,852.53, which he transferred to family in his native Pakistan.
When arrested, Naeem admitted spending the money on flights, a car and what the judge described as other "luxury items".
As part of his offending, Naeem stole just under £60,000 from the charitable wing of the IFA, which develops and supports football for young people.
While he has since raised £160,000 which will be paid back to the IFA, Judge Fowler said the amount involved, the breach of trust and the "significant impact" the theft has had on the association warranted a prison sentence.
Naeem's offending emerged in August 2019, when the IFA's financial director uncovered suspected fraudulent activity whilst reviewing expenditure records.
He found duplicate payments made from the IFA to bank accounts not linked to IFA contacts.
Police were informed, an investigation was launched and the IFA's computer and accountancy software were analysed.
This analysis revealed that when the duplicate payments were being made Naeem - who at the time was the IFA's in-house accountant - was the only member of staff logged onto the system.
Naeem was arrested on August 16, 2019 and during interview he admitted the fraud to police and said he made payments into several separate bank accounts.
He also told police he used the money to buy a £20,000 car, put a £16,000 deposit on a house, paid off £25,000 in credit cards debts and sent money to family in Pakistan.
A total of 175 separate fraudulent transactions were made from the IFA into Naeem's bank accounts.
Judge Fowler said Naeem's spending behaviour "demonstrated he was living well beyond his means... spending money on flights, holidays, jewellery and retail outlets.
"He was motivated by financial gain and, one has to conclude, greed."
The Belfast Recorder said he accepted that Naeem co-operated fully with police, and since his plea he has raised around £160,000 which will be paid back to the IFA.
The Judge said he had also taken into account Naeem's clear criminal record, his remorse and the disgrace he has brought upon himself.
Imposing the prison sentence, Judge Fowler said: "This breach of trust was by a professional entrusted with looking after the finances of the Northern Ireland Football Association.
"The defendant took money repeatedly over a protracted period of time. The money was taken, in my view, primarily to give him a lifestyle advantage and to impress others.
"The impact on the Northern Ireland Football Association, and on their charitable body, was significant."
After sentence was passed, Naeem was handcuffed and led from the dock by prison staff to begin his 10-month jail term.