A FRAUDSTER who used photographs of Borders General Hospital's car park to lure in travellers flying out of Gatwick Airport has been jailed.

Asad Malik advertised secure parking at Gatwick but was actually leaving them dumped in fields with car keys stuck on the windscreens.

The 38-year-old Pakistani businessman set up London Parking Gatwick Ltd – which promised “safe and secure parking” in a “secured compound”.

But the neat, tree-lined tarmac car park picture Malik used on his website was in fact of the Borders General Hospital in Melrose, some 400 miles away.

A jury at Brighton Crown Court found him guilty of three counts of defrauding or misleading customers, in breach of consumer protection laws. Three further counts were left to lie on file.

Judge Paul Tain said his actions would have an impact on other car park companies providing a legitimate service, and jailed Malik for 14 months.

The businessman was also disqualified from acting as a company director of any business for the next four years.

Richard Heller, prosecuting, said holidaymakers had returned to find their cars had been driven for up to 185 miles, while others were damaged or had parking fines.

One customer saw his Mini on the television news in Spain.

The prosecutor said Malik had received “well in excess” of £1 million in just two years from London Parking Gatwick, and Easy Meet and Greet Gatwick.

Keir Monteith QC, defending, said there were 130 complaints out of 27,000 customers.

He argued that Malik was an entrepreneur who had invested his own money in the UK and provided jobs.

The barrister asked the judge to consider a community penalty for his offences, because the case has been hanging over him for nearly three years.

Malik has a housebound wife who lacks confidence, and said he is the sole provider for two children.

Meanwhile his father recently died in Pakistan, but Malik was unable to attend the funeral because of the proceedings.

Judge Tain said: “All these offences involve primarily misleading actions. Many customers across the board have been misled. The vehicles were clearly being held in places which were obviously going to put them at risk.”

The judge said there was “at the very least, gross negligence” in the way the company handled the complaints.

He said: “It was almost as if it was a joke. One example was a customer complaining about cigarette ash in the car, and was told it must have blown in through the window of another car. Another reported their clutch was burnt out.

“That exemplifies the approach being taken, customers that had difficulties were fobbed off in the hope they would go away.”

Meanwhile he said vehicles were not kept securely, and that customers did not know all the facts about the service they would get.

He said: “There was a degree of carelessness. The vehicles were clearly not adequately secured in large parts of the locations where they were in place.

“It significantly undermines the expectations of other companies operating legitimately.

“This was your company, top to bottom. You knew the process and what was going on at every level.

“You created a company that could have operated entirely legitimately, but as the numbers built up you clearly decided to go with the numbers.

“Understandably having worked as a driver you saw the idea for the business.

“You should have operated a cut-off to stop selling parking spaces until you had proper parking spaces to fill.”

Malik, 38, of Jura Close, Crawley, will now face confiscation court hearings under the Proceeds of Crime Act.