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Manchester Arena bomber’s friend sentenced over fraud to buy chemicals

Written by on 26/11/2020

A friend of the Manchester Arena bomber has been given a community service order for fraud after his bank account was used to buy the key ingredient for the bomb.

Yahya Werfalli, 25, a university student from Cheetham Hill, Manchester, was charged in connection with two purchases of hydrogen peroxide over Amazon, in the weeks before the attack.

He supplied his debit card details to Hashem Abedi, the bomber’s younger brother, on two separate occasions on 22 March and 3 April 2017 and his account was then used to buy the key ingredient at a cost of £185.92.

It meant that the purchase would not immediately be traced back to Salman Abedi, who was already known to MI5 for associating with extremists.

*COPYRIGHT UNKNOWN USE AT OWN RISK* .PIC FROM MERCURY PRESS (PICTURED: YAHYA WERFALLI ,22, WHO WAS ARRESTED IN BRIDEOAK STREET, CHEETHAM HILL LAST NIGHT. ID CONFIRMED BY NEIGHBOUR.) ..Two men were arrested after the Army and police launched another terror raid at a house in the Cheetham Hill area of Manchester this morning [Saturday]...Neighbours described how up to 30 armed officers stormed an end terrace property in [107] Brideoak Street - just one mile north of the Manchester Arena - following a controlled explosion at around 2am...Two men, aged 22 and 20, were arrested, bringing the total number of people in custody connected with Monday's atrocity to 11..
Image: Werfalli was sentenced to a 12-month community order

Werfalli was arrested at gunpoint at the family home, five days after the attack, along with his younger brother, Mohamed, a second-year chemical engineering student, at Huddersfield University.

In nine separate interviews over eight days, Werfalli told police that he knew Salman Abedi, the bomber, and Hashem, his younger brother, from the mosque as a child but lost contact with them.

After they had renewed the friendship, he met the brothers in a car park near Elizabeth Park in Cheetham Hill in March 2017.

More from Hashem Abedi

They told him they were running two fraud scams, one involving Amazon, and would put money into his account and buy something using his account details.

He said he thought they were planning to buy phones to sell and that he had done a similar scam before and received £900.

Werfalli would be able to keep £200 of the £300 that was put into his account and in the days after the chemicals were delivered, Salman Abedi telephoned Werfalli asking for the outstanding £100 because he was going to Libya the following morning.

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Security guard on seeing 2015 Arena bomber

They met the same day and Werfalli went with him to a cash machine to provide him with the remaining money.

That day, 14 April, the Abedi brothers emptied the bomb factory of chemicals and parked a Nissan Micra, packed full of bomb-making equipment, at Devell House in Rusholme Place.

RBS investigated the fraud but became suspicious and did not refund any money.

Harriet Lavin, prosecuting, told the court it was “important to note that there is no evidence to suggest this defendant had any knowledge of the nature of the goods purchased, or their intended purpose”.

Anthony Barraclough, defending, said the brothers needed “someone who is a dupe who takes part in nothing but the purchase of chemicals”.

He said he was “encouraged and exploited by the terrorists” who used a “pretext, a cover, to persuade him to provide his details”.

At the time of his arrest, he was studying at Bradford University and has a Twitter account in the name Avon Barksdale, a drugs kingpin in The Wire television drama.

He has since resumed his studies and is now on a management degree at Buckingham University.

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Moment father approached Manchester bomber

Werfalli appeared in court in a green jumper and overcoat. He was sentenced to a 12-month community order, with 80 hours of unpaid work and 20 rehabilitation activity requirement days.

The judge, Patrick Field QC, told him: “I am not blind to the terrible events at the arena.

“The human impact of what happened there is self-evident, but I must not let the inevitable emotional response to those events influence the sentence in this case, because they had nothing to do with you.

“The group activity that you were involved in with the Abedis was fraud. If it had been something more serious, you would have been charged with something more serious.”

What was the scam?

The Abedi brothers deposited £300 into Werfalli’s account at a branch of RBS on Wilbraham Road in Chorlton on 22 March.

He then sent his bank card details to Hashem Abedi at 4.55pm and received the reply: “Mia Mia fam”, a Libyan phrase meaning perfect, excellent.

Twenty minutes later, Werfalli checked with Hashem: “When u doing this Amazon ting?” and got the reply: “Tonight bro inshallah.”

At 5.54pm that evening, 25 litres of hydrogen peroxide were ordered on Amazon using a new account in the name “Yahya Wer”.

The IP address for the login was the Golden Tandoori takeaway in Great Ancoats Street where Hashem Abedi worked as a delivery driver, half a mile from Manchester Arena.

Hashem Abedi
Image: Hashem Abedi told police Yahya Werfalli is his friend. File pic

Less than two hours after the hydrogen peroxide order had been placed, Werfalli contacted HSBC claiming that he was unfamiliar with activity which had been going on in his bank account.

He told the operator he did not have an Amazon account and had not used them for years and was transferred to the fraud department.

Three minutes after making another call to HSBC on 29 March, again claiming he had been the victim of fraud, Werfalli sent details for a new bank card to the brothers.

On 3 April, Werfalli’s account was credited with £100 via online banking, this time from his brother, Mohamed, which reduced his overdraft to £1,856.90, £150 under the limit.

A couple of hours later, at 2.49pm, an IP address at Hulme Market was used to buy 30 litres of hydrogen peroxide in three bottles, for £92.47.

The payment details were from Yahya Werfalli’s new debit card and the chemical was once against delivered to Lindum Street in Rusholme on April 6, signed for using the signature “WerP”, although Werfalli was not there.

The chemical was ordered using a new Amazon account in a fictitious Irish name, John O’Brian, using the email address which meant, “we have come to slaughter.”

On April 7, Werfalli rang his bank again, spending 14 minutes 30 seconds trying to persuade them that he had received a new bank card but there was another Amazon transaction on his account which he knew nothing about.

RBS investigated the fraud but they became suspicious and did not refund any money.

Hashem later told police: “Yahya Werfalli is my friend. I provided his bank details to Salman so Salman and Yahya could do a credit card fraud somehow or make money from the card.”

the Manchester suicide bomber Salman Abedi had visited Abdallah (pictured) in prison twice
Image: The Manchester suicide bomber Salman Abedi was already known to MI5 for associating with extremists had visited Abdallah (pictured) in prison twice

Hashem was put on trial for murder and jailed for a record life sentence with a minimum of 55 years following a trial in February.

Werfalli was not arrested and charged until 13 May this year and pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud by false representation under the Fraud Act 2006 at Manchester Magistrates Court last month.

District Judge Jack McGarva sent the case to crown court for sentencing, telling Werfalli he had been “willingly involved in group activity to defraud a bank and Amazon”.

“You may not have known what was being bought, but we can’t ignore the dreadful human consequences of what you did,” he added.

Members of the victims’ families were in court to see the sentencing but the judge said: “I must look at victim impact and the submissions made by the prosecution that I should take account of the death and injury caused by Salman Abedi’s bomb. This would not be appropriate.”

 Sky News

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