A couple who plotted to swindle insurance companies out of more than Â£600,000 by pretending the husband had died suddenly in India have both been jailed for two years.
Geta and Sharanjit Gill almost got away with it until a dogged insurance investigator traveled to India and made inquiries at temples, the crematorium, a hospital and funeral directors.
He discovered Sharanjit Gill was still alive and he informed police in Britain.
Outlining the case at Luton crown court prosecutor Michael Speak said mystery surrounded a death certificate which purported to show that Mr Gill died from a heart attack on Nov 19 2003, then aged 29.
The hospital where he was supposed to have been treated in Cartarpur, was little more than a doctor’s surgery. The doctor who signed the certificate at first said it was genuine but then retracted that and said it must have been stolen and forged.
“We cannot say that the doctor was implicated,” said Mr. Speak.
He said the certificate, in Punjabi, and its English translation was sent to four insurance companies to claim on five life assurance policies the couple had taken out between August 1999 and October 2002.
Mr Speak said: “The total the ‘widow’ would have been paid had the policies been settled was in excess of Â£626,000.
“The companies – Norwich Union, AXA, Britannic and National Deposit – received calls from Mrs Gill in Nov and Dec 2003 informing them that Mr. Gill had died whilst in India.
“She returned the claims forms in Dec and Jan 2004 enclosing the death certificate.
“But because the sum of money was considerable and because the death was overseas and insurance investigator was sent to make inquiries.
“First he went to meet Mrs Gill who told him the family had gone to India in Nov 2003 and her husband woke at 4 am with chest pains. He was taken to hospital and pronounced dead.
“The investigator then went to India to make further inquiries. He discovered first of all that the hospital was not a real hospital in the conventional sense but more a doctor’s surgery.
“There were no records of the death at the crematorium and he was not satisfied with what he was being told and it became increasingly evident that Mr. Gill was not dead at all.”
The court was told that after police became involved Mr Gill returned to England and the couple were interviewed. They said that he had been put under pressure by an uncle and other relatives in India and he in turn had put pressure on his wife to make the claims.
Mrs Gill, 40, who was British born and taking a five year career break from her Home Office job to look after their two children, wept as she was jailed.
She and her husband, now 32, both of Spring Road, Kempston, Beds, both pleaded guilty to six charges of attempted deception between November 2003 and Mar 2004.
Judge Richard Foster told them: “If this deception had been successful rather than being uncovered by an astute investigator, you would have been richer to the tune of more than Â£600,000 and would no doubt have reorganised your affairs to reunite your family and benefit from your ill gotten gains.
“Greed played a considerable part in your thinking when you decided to go through with this attempted fraud.
“I have thought long and hard about the effects on your children, but those effects are the fault of you and your husband. Being a mother cannot give you immunity from your criminal conduct.”
Cyril Ume, defending the couple said they maintained that they were under considerable pressure to commit the offence. Mr. Gill had stayed on in India alone and had then been held by relatives, his documents seized and told he would not be allowed to return home.
His wife only went along with the plan because she feared for her husband’s safety and the safety of his parents.
“Their seven year old son and four year old daughter are the real victims of their father’s wrong doing and there are serious concerns about their care if both parents are sent to prison.
“They feel genuine remorse and wish they could turn the clock back.”
6 December 2006