Police, council and community leaders join forces to raise awareness of bogus spiritual healers

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Left to right: Merybell Smith, Sital Singh Gill of the Indian Workers Association, Inspector Ben Gillard and University lecturer Dr Harish Malhotra

Issued on 6/3/15 at 2:34 p.m.

Police, council and community leaders are joining forces to raise awareness about spiritual healers who are conning vulnerable people.

On Thursday February 19 Mohammed Umar Ashrafi was jailed for nine years after he was found guilty of 15 counts of fraud and one count of blackmail at Leicester Crown Court.

In April 2014 the Force launched an investigation after a victim disclosed how Ashrafi had posed as Kamal Ji, a devotee of Sai Baba, and claimed he could rid them of their problems.

The court heard that Ashrafi used various items to perform tricks and gain the victims’ confidence and trust before taking thousands of pounds from them.

Leicestershire Police and Leicester City Council’s trading standards department are hoping to raise awareness within the Asian and African community about the dangers of enlisting the services of such healers.

Inspector Ben Gillard from the East Leicester neighbourhood policing area, said: “The practise of spiritual healers is one that goes back many years and is mainly associated to the Asian Sub-continent and Africa.

“These individuals are known to advertise their services within those communities and in some cases families and friends of people who have visited the spiritual healers have recommended them.

“The aim of our campaign is to educate communities and raise awareness that these people can’t perform miracles and no one should contact them or recommend their services.

“These people are committing fraud and we would encourage anyone approached in these circumstances to contact the authorities.

“If anyone feels that they need to speak to someone we would encourage you to seek advice from a trained professional such as your GP.”

Leicestershire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Sir Clive Loader, said: “One of my priorities is to protect the vulnerable and I welcome the police and council’s campaign to raise awareness of this issue within the communities we serve.

“These so-called spiritual healers are preying on people who are vulnerable and are at a point in their lives when they feel it necessary to ask for help from these individuals who claim they can perform miracles, they are not miracle workers nor can they heal ailments they are just con artists and criminals committing fraud for their own personal gain.”

“Trading standards are working with the police to raise awareness of people posing as spiritual or faith healers,” said Merybell Smith, business regulation advice, support & training manager at the city council.

“By making claims which are impossible to fulfil, whilst taking money off their victims, these people are committing fraud.

“Those who are most vulnerable to this type of deception don’t always see themselves as victims, which is why we are keen to raise awareness amongst the wider community.”

If anyone has concerns about someone who may be a victim, or suspicions about someone who may be acting fraudulently, please report to one of the following organisations.

  • Leicestershire Police on 101
  • Leicester City Council Trading Standards on 0345 404 0506
  • Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111
  • Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040

If you are vulnerable or need someone to talk to please visit www.counselling-directory.org.uk for advice and support on the services available to you.