Investors who lost thousands in Muslim entrepreneur scheme rally at Barking mosque
PUBLISHED: 17:20 13 December 2019 | UPDATED: 13:29 14 December 2019
Ex-members of a collapsed investment scheme held a protest at Al Madina Mosque today claiming to be owed tens of thousands of pounds.
Police and private security were present at a stormy stand-off in Victoria Road.
The four demonstrators were ex-members of Leverage, an unregulated investment scheme run by Ilford-based organisation the Muslim Entrepreneur Network (MEN).
Leverage fell through in 2018 after at least 1,400 people paid £4million into a programme that promised "a profitable business" in 12 months and "financial freedom".
When nothing happened and £2m of their money was sent abroad, members demanded refunds in droves.
Co-organiser Mohsan Qureshi, 31, said the group wanted answers from mosque secretary Ashfaq Siddique.
Mr Siddique, an ex-Metropolitan Police detective, appeared in early promotional material for Leverage and MEN used the mosque as its office address for six months in 2018.
Mr Qureshi, who claims to still be owed £3,800, said: "Every call and message we try to get to him is ignored.
"We've been met with a lot of hostility. Our next move is to try to drum up support."
Also present was Ali Amin, 41, who received a refund on his Leverage membership but also lost £33,000 on an MEN spin-out venture, Empty Trip.
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A 28-year-old ex-Leverage member from Tower Hamlets, who asked not to be named, said he was owed £10,000.
He said: "I've come to ask Ashfaq Siddique why as a community member and ex-police officer, he associated himself with an organisation which to this day we are trying to get answers from."
Leverage was the brainchild of Rafaqat "Rocky" Mirza, a Canadian venture capitalist who lives in Ilford and partnered with MEN in 2016.
It was promoted by MEN founders Haroon Qureshi and Harun Rashid, also from Ilford. Mr Rashid later denounced the project as a "mirage".
Mr Mirza was employed as a consultant by MEN and insisted in February that all those eligible for a refund had already received one.
He was not present at the mosque but his younger brother Arif was.
At least £1.7m of Leverage members' money was sent to Arif's Dubai-based businesses, without, members claim, their knowledge, during 2017/2018.
Arif Mirza told this newspaper: "Take a walk". He did not comment further.
Police were tasked with keeping the peace during the short-lived protest and two backup vans were called to Victoria Road, but were not needed.
In February this year 20 reports to Action Fraud about the scheme were referred on to the Met for a criminal investigation.
A police spokesman said: "A full investigation was carried out by detectives from the Central Specialist Crime Command and the allegations have been deemed to be a civil matter. The complainants have been informed."
Ashfaq Siddique and Rafaqat Mirza have been contacted for comment.