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Researcher who defrauded Innovate UK repays over £1m

Image: University of Cambridge

National Crime Agency traces assets transferred abroad by British-Iranian fraudster

The National Crime Agency has said it has clawed back half of the £2.1 million in research funding fraudulently acquired by the disgraced former University of Cambridge researcher Ehsan Abdi-Jalebi.

Abdi-Jalebi was sentenced to four years in prison in 2018, after pleading guilty to 13 charges relating to fraudulent claims submitted to the Department of Energy and Climate Change and Innovate UK for research on green energy projects.

On 12 April, the NCA said its asset confiscation enforcement team had worked with Iranian authorities to track down around £988,000 in assets that Abdi-Jalebi—who holds joint British-Iranian citizenship—had transferred abroad. The agency was also able to return about £60,000 to the public purse through the sale of a property in Cambridgeshire.

The Crown Prosecution Service applied for a confiscation order in August 2021 when it was established that the criminal benefit received by Abdi-Jalebi amounted to around £2.1m.

He was ordered to pay over £1m of available assets with the threat of a seven-year default sentence if he failed to surrender the funds.

‘Hugely significant result’

Rob Burgess, head of asset denial at the NCA, said: “This is a hugely significant result and demonstrates the agency’s ability to recover criminal assets even under challenging circumstances, such as where they are held abroad.

“We have demonstrated our drive and ability to pursue continuous enforcement activity against those subject to Confiscation Orders to ensure they do not retain the proceeds of their crime.”

At Abdi-Jalebi’s trial, the jury was told that the defendant had used the grant money to fund a lavish lifestyle, investing in property and taking out a lease on a Maserati sports car.

They heard that he falsified documents to channel the grants through his company Wind Technologies Ltd.

Following the trial, Research Professional News revealed that Innovate UK was tightening up security arrangements for its funding.

Abdi-Jalebi was released in December 2020 after serving half of his sentence.