Trial of councillor accused of falsely claiming £10,000 for pizza business is delayed

A Wolverhampton councillor accused of fraudulently claiming a £10,000 Covid business grant will have to wait until next month to discover his fate.

Councillor Harman Banger has been arrested on suspicion of fraud
Councillor Harman Banger has been arrested on suspicion of fraud

Despite setting aside five days at Walsall Magistrates Court for the trial of Harman Banger and his wife Neena Kumari, for fraud by false representation, the case still was not settled and the remainder will now be heard on Friday, November 5.

The proceedings will be transferred to Wolverhampton Crown Court for the end of the defence case and then the verdict will be decided.

On Friday several witnesses told the court they had consumed food from Pizza Plus, The Orchard, Bilston, the business Banger, 40, and Kumari, 37, claimed the grant for.

Text message and phone records were shown to disprove the defence’s claim to have organised a quote for double glazing in early 2020.

Prosecutor Daniel Oscroft suggested those testifying were friends and business associates of the Labour Councillor and were in fact lying about buying chicken burgers from the dilapidated premises which the court had heard earlier had no electricity for years.

Councillor Banger’s brother Pavan testified to say he had delivered food to Pizza Plus and eaten there multiple times.

Property business owner Sandeep Bhattia clashed with Mr Oscroft over his choice of food venue in Bilston.

Mr Oscroft said: “There are hundreds of takeaways, chicken shops, Dixy chickens, KFC within walking distance but you decided to eat from a takeaway which was boarded up and had a smashed front door window?”

Mr Bhattia replied: “Yes, the chicken smelt nice as I walked past. I can eat where I like.”

East Park Labour councillor Banger was forced to step down from his role as Wolverhampton economy cabinet member after the allegations emerged in June last year.

West Midlands Police arrested him in June 2020 “on suspicion of fraud offences” and was released pending a full inquiry.

Wolverhampton Council Labour group have administratively suspended Banger pending the outcome of an internal party investigation.

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