Fraudster involved in Sturgeon row pays cash back

Image caption, Rauf was jailed for two years for benefits fraud

A benefits cheat at the centre of a political storm involving Scotland's deputy first minister has been forced to pay back the money he defrauded.

Abdul Rauf, 60, a constituent of Nicola Sturgeon, was jailed for two years for falsely claiming £80,000 in benefits.

He has now been given until 1 September, under the Proceeds of Crime Act, to pay the outstanding £53,000.

Ms Sturgeon apologised after initially asking the court to consider "alternatives to a custodial sentence".

It is believed that Rauf has taken out a loan to cover the £53,000 he owes.

Before he was sentenced, Glasgow Sheriff Court heard how Rauf admitted failing to declare a property in Newington, Edinburgh, worth £200,000 on his application for income support.

'Full restitution'

He subsequently received £650 a month in rent from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) while he claimed the benefits between 2001 and 2006.

At the same time he was living in a £400,000 house in Glasgow's Maxwell Park area.

It also emerged that in 1996, Rauf was given a four-year sentence for stealing almost £60,000 in pension and benefit payments when he was a sub-post master at Tollcross in Edinburgh.

When Rauf's case was called to court in February, his defence advocate Donald Findlay said his client would be able "to make full restitution to the government department involved" through the sale of one of his two properties.

He also said Rauf was in poor health and produced a letter of support from Ms Sturgeon - his MSP in the Glasgow Govan constituency.

Image caption, Nicola Sturgeon apologised in a statement to MSPs

In the letter, she stated: "Mr Rauf has accepted his wrong doing and has experienced the consequences of it through the effect on his health, the distress caused to his family and the impact on his standing in his community."

Ms Sturgeon said he had already paid £27,000 of the outstanding balance to the DWP and would settle the remainder by selling property.

She concluded: "He and his wife are anxious that a custodial sentence may be imposed by the court and of the effect this will have on Mr Rauf's health and the impact on family life.

"I would appeal to the court to take the points raised here into account and consider alternatives to a custodial sentence."

The letter caused a political storm with opposition MSPs questioning Ms Sturgeon's judgement, and some calling for her to resign.

Despite initial backing from First Minister Alex Salmond, Ms Sturgeon later apologised.

In a statement to MSPs a few weeks later, she said she had acted in good faith but accepted that the wording of her letter was "wrong".

The deputy first minister also said that, on reflection, she should not have asked the court to consider alternatives to custody.

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