Ehsan Abdi-Jalebi, 37, pictured, was today jailed for four years after he was found guilty of siphoning off more than £1 million in government grants from his Cambridge-based green technology company
A Cambridge don who swindled £1 million in a green-energy swindle was jailed for four years today.
Ehsan Abdi-Jalebi, 37, was caught with £100,000 in cash in a Thornton’s Continental chocolate box as he boarded a flight to Tehran from Heathrow airport.
He had been developing a property in Iran worth £900,000 while driving around in his Maserati.
Abdi-Jalebi won international acclaim for his work on wind turbines and set up his technology firm in 2006.
He dishonestly received project funding to the value of £2.5m in grant money from Innovate UK and The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), as they would not have paid out the grant money had they known that invoices were being forged.
Judge Martin Beddoe told Abdi-Jalebi: ‘Of the funding dishonestly obtained you trousered £1m yourself.’
Wind Technologies Ltd was entitled to grants for part of the costs incurred but not for the total amount.
Abdi-Jalebi altered the invoices, increasing Wind Technologies costs to make up for the costs that were not covered by the partial grants.
The company would therefore receive de facto 100 per cent grants instead of partial grants.
Jonathan Polnay, prosecuting, said the fraud was ‘a long running course of conduct.’
‘The Department of Energy and Climate Change and Innovate UK were submitted forged invoices which resulted in £2.5 million being handed over,’ he said.
Following his arrest, Abdi-Jalebi lost his fellowship at Churchill College in Cambridge as the National Crime Agency spent 18 months examining his financial history.
His company, Wind Technologies, received more than £1.3million in renewable energy grants from the Government and the European Union.
Three linked firms were handed a further £1.5million.
David Sonn, defending, said: ‘He has been on bail for two years preventing him from visiting his family in Iran and missing the one year anniversary of his father’s death.
‘He has asked me to express his regret and his apologies to his funders, his co-directors, the scientific community and the universities.
Judge Beddoe told Abdi-Jalebi: ‘For the best part of two years you used forged invoices to obtain funds from DECC and Innovate UK.
‘Funding of £2.5m had been secured as a result of your forgeries.
‘These forgeries would have continued had your taking of the money out of the country not brought a cloud of suspicion around you.
‘Some of the money obtained was spent on genuine projects.’
Abdi-Jalebi, of Trumpington, Cambridge, admitted 13 counts of fraud and was jailed for four years.
A further charge of perverting the course of justice, which he denied was ordered to to lie on the court file.
Speaking after the sentencing, NCA senior investigating officer Ian Truby said:
‘While the companies that Dr Abdi-Jalebi was involved with were doing some legitimate work in the field of renewable energy, he used them as a cash cow to siphon off money.
Abdi-Jalebi won international acclaim for his work on wind turbines and set up his technology firm in 2006 [File photo]
‘This money had come in as government grants, so it was essentially stolen from taxpayers.
‘Through some great detective work and after analysing thousands of documents NCA investigators were able to prove that he was a fraud.
‘While we have identified a number of UK assets held by Abdi-Jalebi the likelihood is that most of the money ended up in Iran, which will make it far more difficult to recover.
‘However, we will do everything in our power to recover as much of that UK taxpayers’ money as possible.’
Sarah Vodden, Director of Operations at Innovate UK said: ‘By carrying out this fraud, Abdi Jalebi deprived genuine innovators of the opportunity for funding for their ideas.
‘This was a sophisticated fraud that was deliberately constructed to evade the counter fraud checks we had in place at that time. We are grateful for the thorough work carried out by the National Crime Agency and Crown Prosecution Service to bring Jalebi to justice.’
Nick Jariwalla, Director, Border Force Heathrow said: ‘Abdi-Jalebi was first stopped when one of our Border Force detector dogs sniffed out the £137,000 hidden in his hand luggage.
‘While he was able to account for the cash to the NCA’s satisfaction at that stage, the intelligence gained enabled my officers to make two further stops which ultimately proved to be his undoing.
‘These Border Force interventions were the crucial first steps in bringing Abdi-Jalebi to justice and putting an end to his lucrative criminal enterprise.’
Leigh Webber, of the CPS, said: ‘Abdi-Jalebi abused his position as a respected academic at the University of Cambridge to exploit Government schemes designed to encourage entrepreneurship and development in the renewable energies industry.
‘The CPS showed he submitted forged invoices to make it look like he was running genuine businesses and used tax-payers’ money to fund his jet-set lifestyle, continuing his lies when cash he was trying to smuggle to Iran was seized.
‘There is no doubt Abdi-Jalebi could have advanced the field and made a much more significant contribution to wind energy, but greed got the better of him.’