A BUSINESSMAN who falsely claimed over £5,000 in benefits was spared jail yesterday.

But Kirklees Council say they will pursue Azher Latif, 37, of Bradford Road, Fartown, for another £16,576.34 he is alleged to owe in council tax and housing benefit overpayments between October 2000 and July 2007.

Latif, who runs property letting agency Latif Housing Group, failed to declare over £33,000 in several bank accounts in order to receive housing and council tax benefit.

The father-of-six also continued to claim housing benefit for a tenant living in one of his properties eight months after the tenant had left.

Latif, who admitted offences which occurred between October 2004 and December 2006, was ordered to repay £5,085.76 and told he could lose property if it was purchased with illegally-earned money.

He was also ordered to do 150 hours unpaid work.

Defence solicitor Abdul Iqbal said Latif’s actions had been to “buoy” his business and there had been no extravagance or evidence of a professional fraud.

Mr Iqbal said Latif had admitted the offences when he realised he was under investigation and that he had voluntarily repaid £1,500.

Sentencing, Judge Christopher Prince said: “The upshot is you have not done anything to assist your business ... but the damage to your reputation is irreparable.

“It is extremely mean to take money set aside for those who have greatest need and I hope you have great remorse for what you have done.”

Latif will appear before Bradford Crown Court on August 13 for a confiscation hearing.

Clr Andrew Palfreeman, Kirklees Cabinet Member for Revenues and Benefits service, said: “This man was committing fraud both at home and in his work, but our officers have foiled him on both counts through their diligence and using all the tools available to them.

“Those who commit any level of fraud are diverting valuable resources away from essential services as well as jeopardising the interests of those in genuine need.

“Kirklees has an impressive record of uncovering such frauds and everyone should realise if they try to make fraudulent claims they will be prosecuted.”