Pakistani who got Rs1 bn Covid loan for fake company ends in US jail


TRENTON, New Jersey: A Pakistani man who obtained a fraudulent Covid-19 loan worth millions from the US government near the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic has been sentenced to five years and four months in prison.

Azhar Sarwar Rana, 31, of Newton, will also have to pay back about $5.58 million (approx. Rs1 billion) and serve five years of supervised release after completing his stint in federal prison, the US Attorney for New Jersey said in a statement.

Rana sought a $10 million Paycheck Protection Program loan for his phony company “Azhar Sarwar Rana LLC” when he submitted his application on April 6, 2020 using falsified payroll reports and IRS tax documents, prosecutors said according to a foreign media report on Thursday.

Rana ended up receiving $5,677,473 in May 2020 for what he claimed was a real estate development company, court documents state. The minimal wages the sham company purportedly paid in 2020 were mostly to people whose submitted Social Security numbers that did not correspond to their submitted names, prosecutors said.

Rana then used the money for personal expenses such as a $13,000 payment to a BMW dealership. He also traded millions of dollars in securities and sent money to accounts in the names of family members — in Pakistan and elsewhere — according to charging documents. Authorities arrested Rana on Dec. 12, 2020, hours before was scheduled to board a flight to Pakistan he booked earlier that day. PPP loans are part of the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) and are supposed to be used to for payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent and utilities.

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