Police have charged three men with fraud and a fourth for possession of criminal property following dawn raids conducted in connection with the Grenfell Tower fire investigation.
Koffi Kouakou, 54, Abolaji Onafuye, also 54, and Abdelkarim Rekaya, 28, were charged Friday with fraud by false representation.
The fourth man, 25-year-old Yonatan Eyob, was charged with possession of criminal property, possession with intent to supply class A drugs, and failing to supply his mobile phone PIN code when asked by police, reports Sky News.
All the offences are in connection with last June’s devastating tower block fire in North Kensington, West London, where 72 people died and more than 70 were injured. A public inquiry into the causes of and reaction to the fire is currently underway.
Eight men and one woman were arrested during dawn raids on Thursday as part of a wider fraud investigation; the female and four of the men were released without charge.
The BBC reports that the value of the alleged frauds range from £25,000 to £100,000.
“All those arrests are in connection with what we believe to be fraudulent claims for housing and/or support of one kind or another, arising out of false claims from people that they were associated with Grenfell Tower,” said Detective Superintendent Matt Bonner, who is leading the investigation into the fire.
There have been several cases of individuals taking advantage of the tragedy by falsely claiming they were victims or relatives of victims to access financial support intended for those genuinely affected or displaced by the fire.
Mohammad Gamoota, 31, was sentenced to 18 months on June 1st for posing as a survivor to obtain almost £7,000. Gamoota had used the name ‘Abdel Salam’ – a real fatality in the fire, whose two grieving sons had to assist police with the fraud investigation – to obtain the aid, in moves that were condemned by Grenfell residents as “disgusting and distasteful”.
In May, a pair of illegal immigrants from Jamaica, Tommy Brooks, 51, and Elaine Douglas, 51, were found guilty of fraud for claiming to have been residents of the 24-story tower block at the time of the fire, claiming £120,000 in luxury hotel bills and food. Mr. Brooks and Ms. Douglas are due to be sentenced on June 13th.
Joyce Msokeri, 47, who claimed to have lost her home and her husband in the fire, was jailed for four and a half years in April for fraud and possessing a false document.
Of the recent arrests, the campaign group Grenfell United said there is “no place” for fraudsters in the Grenfell’s “good, decent” community.
“It is hurtful and saddening that people would take advantage of a tragedy like this,” the group’s chairman Chair Shahin Sadafi said.
“It is not just that they have taken funds and charity that was not for them, it is disrespectful to the real victims of the fire and people who lost their lives,” Mr. Sadafi said.
“Our community has shown strength, determination and dignity throughout the last year. Grenfell Tower was a community of good decent people, and we were proud to be each others’ neighbours.
“These people have absolutely no place here. We are relieved they have been identified and rooted out.”