Gardaí have withdrawn all charges against a man of alleged theft of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment after hearing the matter may have gone to judicial review.
Khurram Cheema had faced a total of 20 charges of PUP theft, with the charges having been levelled against him in Bandon District Court last March and April.
Mr Cheema, a courier driver with a previous address at Apartment 2, Zunera Lodge, Quayside House on Pier Road, Kinsale, and more recently living in Kippagh in Dunmanway, was accused of theft arising from claiming the PUP from April 21 to September 29 last year.
Gardaí had alleged he had been breaking the law by being in Pakistan for a time, but the court had already been told Mr Cheema was an Irish national whose work and family were based here.
At Bandon District Court on Thursday, Judge James McNulty was told all charges were now being withdrawn on the instruction of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Mr Cheema’s solicitor, Graham Hyde, addressed the court and said when his client was first charged “TV cameras and whatnot had been present”.
He said judicial review had been threatened in relation to the charges against his client, who the court was told has been living in Ireland for 15 years.
“He was stranded in Pakistan,” Mr Hyde said of his client. “He made efforts to get back to Ireland.”
Mr Hyde said the PUP was an emergency measure that had been brought in on an “ad hoc” basis and this case may have been “a misapplication of the rules or criteria”.
He said when Mr Cheema returned to Ireland he had been arrested and told what had happened had been illegal.
Judge McNulty said: “But it wasn’t so.” A number of legal challenges regarding the stopping of the €350 PUP have been heard in the High Court this year.
The district court in Bandon had previously heard that Mr Cheema had worked as a taxi driver for a number of years but his PSV licence was recently not renewed and so he had turned to driving as a courier. The court heard he was self-employed and that he had just successfully applied to have his wife and children join him from Pakistan.
The ongoing matter of his PSV licence is to be heard in Bandon District Court on November 4 next.