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Manchester Arena: Guilty plea to fraud charges over chemicals

By Daniel De Simone
BBC News

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  • Hashem Abedi trial
image captionYahya Werfalli outside Manchester Magistrates' Court

A man has pleaded guilty to fraud in relation to chemicals bought by the brother of the Manchester Arena bomber.

Manchester Magistrates' Court heard that Yahya Werfalli's bank details were used to buy hydrogen peroxide on Amazon.

The chemicals were acquired by brothers Salman and Hashem Abedi for the bomb that killed 22 people in May 2017

Werfalli, 25, from Cheetham Hill, Manchester, admitted two counts of fraud by false representation.

Families of some those who died were present in court to see Werfalli say: "I plead guilty to both matters."

The court heard he had provided his card details to Hashem Abedi, who placed the orders using fake accounts for delivery to an empty house.

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Werfalli, a friend of the brothers, then called the Royal Bank of Scotland pretending to be unaware of the purchases, claiming they were frauds, and asking for a refund.

Hashem Abedi deposited £300 in Werfalli's bank account to cover the purchases.

The court heard that Werfalli had texted Hashem Abedi to ask: "When u doing this Amazon ting".

Hashem Abedi had replied: "Tonight bro inshallah".

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image captionYahya Werfalli's defence lawyer said he was a "perfect target" for sophisticated terrorists

In total the Abedi brothers obtained 55 litres of hydrogen peroxide using Werfalli's details in March and April 2017.

When the chemicals were delivered to an empty house in Rusholme they were signed for by "Yaya" and "werp", although mobile phone evidence placed Werfalli elsewhere in the city at the time.

The court heard when Werfalli was arrested he denied knowing what the brothers were buying and assumed it was mobile phones.

He told police there was a "mix up" as the brothers had made more than one purchase and that he made a mistake by reporting a fraud "too soon".

The defendant had admitted being involved in other frauds in the past, the court was told.

Prosecutor Peter Cruikshank said that, although the monetary value of the frauds was low, the "wider impact on the community was huge" but that the Crown recognised that Werfalli said he did not know what that would be.

Anthony Barraclough, defending, said "this man was a dupe" and he "was a perfect target for sophisticated terrorists".

He asked for the case to stay in the magistrates' court where sentencing powers were limited.

However, the judge said he was sending the case to Manchester Crown Court for sentencing on 26 November.

District Judge Jack McGarva said: "You may not have known what was being bought, but we can't ignore the dreadful human consequences of what you did."

He added that it would be "foolish and disrespectful" to the victims to do so.

In March this year Hashem Abedi was convicted of murdering 22 people in the attack, the attempted murder of those who survived, and conspiracy to cause explosions with his brother Salman Abedi.

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