'Barmy' legal aid for failed asylum seeker

Robert de,Press Association
Friday 30 January 2009 09:45

A decision to give legal aid to a failed asylum seeker and fraudster has been described as "barmy".

Zimbabwean Quentin Chapingidza was granted legal aid after he was charged with falsely claiming £23,500 in student loans from Harrow Council in north west London for a three-year computer course.

His loan application included a fake Home Office letter claiming he had indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

Chapingidza, of North Parade, Harrow, admitted making false claims at an earlier hearing at Harrow Magistrates' Court and will be sentenced today.

Councillor Paul Osborn, Harrow Council's cabinet member for communication, said: "We were shocked and bewildered by this decision.

"Here we have a failed asylum seeker who is attempting to defraud tens of thousands from a local authority. Yet the taxpayer is now paying for his lawyers, even though Chapingidza is a failed asylum seeker. It is barmy - you just couldn't make it up."

Chapingidza's initial application for public funding was rejected by the Legal Services Commission, but the magistrates' court reversed this decision and granted him legal aid.

The fake application for a student loan was to study at Greenwich College of Management.

Chapingidza, who arrived in the UK in 2001, had previously tried to obtain student finance in 2006 from another London council but was turned down because of his immigration status.

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