A “friend” of tragic aid worker Alan Henning was offered £30,000 to work for MI5 around the time he allegedly funded terrorism under the cover of Syria-bound convoys, a court has heard.
West Yorkshire-based Pervez Rafiq and three other men are on trial at the Old Bailey variously accused of helping to smuggle cash and equipment to fighters by infiltrating charity missions in 2012 and 2013.
While he was “hardly James Bond”, Rafiq was a charity “dynamo”, raising £200,000 and organising multiple convoys to the war-torn country, his lawyer said in a closing speech.
The court heard he was first inspired on the “Galloway convoy” to Gaza and went on to be interviewed as part of a BBC documentary as he drove an ambulance to Syria.
That ambulance bound for the besieged city of Aleppo in October 2013 was now “almost certainly destroyed”, Rafiq’s lawyer Hossein Zahir said.
He described how the defendant was regularly stopped on his way in and out of Britain and even allowed the BBC camera crew to examine his ambulance during the trip.
Mr Zahir told jurors: “The reporter is on one ambulance pointing things out. This really is a cunning operation - or it is just possible this might be good people doing something good, something decent.”
In the documentary, Rafiq allegedly said: “We are not interested in politics, we are interested in aid.”
Mr Zahir said “tragedy struck” and the reality of civil war hit home when the defendant’s friend, Mr Henning, was taken during one convoy they were on together.
On the defendant’s appeals for his freedom, the lawyer said: “Mr Henning is kidnapped and we know what happened.
“He spends the next seven to eight months desperately trying to get this man back.”
Mr Zahir also highlighted Rafiq’s willingness to talk to the British authorities including an MI5 agent called “Ben” who texted him an offer of work saying: “I have identified an opportunity for you.”
Just as Rafiq, who worked from just one phone, was “hardly James Bond”, the agent “Ben” was no “M” either, judging from the “bizarre” text message, jurors were told.
The secret service went on to make a “cynical” offer of £30,000 to make up for the sum Rafiq had lost in a fraud, Mr Zahir said.
Rafiq, 46, of Birkby, Huddersfield, Syed Hoque, 37, of Stoke-on-Trent, Mashoud Miah, 27, of east London, and Mohammed Hussain, 30, of east London, denied all the charges against them.