A respected, talented and hard-working GP, who misappropriated over £1.1 million in a period of 6 weeks to fuel his online gambling addiction has faced an imprisonment sentence of three years and four months.
Rumi Chhapia, an experienced doctor, stole the money from Portsmouth Primary Care Alliance Limited (PPCA), a healthcare group and collection of GP practices that he established in the region of Hampshire city. The money was embezzled by the GP through a total of 65 transactions over 41 days in 2020 and was used by Mr Chhapia to pay off his debts playing roulette and slot machines.
As heard by the Court, Rumi Chhapia gambled away an overall amount of £2.5 million, with him managing to recover £1.2 million of these losses. At the time the imprisonment sentence was announced in court, Judge Keith Cutler revealed that the doctor had broken the trust placed on him by taking £1.1 million from the PPCA, which should have been used for the development of the GP practices.
The judge described the mone misappropriation as a very serious violation of the GP’s responsibilities, as Doctor Chhapia was supposed to provide his patients with the best of care but was dishonest, instead. The judge also confirmed that the GP had been seduced by his addiction to gambling.
Court Judge Says Dr Chhapia Abuse the Trist Placed on Him by Stealing the Money
Portsmouth Crown Court was told by Matthew Lawson, prosecuting, that the 45-year-old Doctor Chhapia stole a total amount of a little over £1,133,704. So far, he managed to return £238,000 of this amount.
As revealed by Mr Lawson, the GP had fully confessed to the wrongdoing, saying he had stolen money from Portsmouth Primary Care Alliance Limited. Mr Chhapia had faced some financial difficulties and tried to win some money through online gambling but it only made his losses larger. During the court hearing, it also became clear that the director of PPCA had been able to get access to the healthcare group undisturbed when a colleague of his was on sick leave. Doctor Chhapia had continued stealing the money even after his colleagues confronted him.
The prosecutor informed the Court that Doctor Chhapia’s gambling addiction escalated to an extent of him losing his car, remortgaging his property and being not able to pay back his debts to family and friends. Then, he used the chance to transfer the money from the healthcare group and GP practice to his personal account to pay for his addiction to roulette and slot machines.
Stan Reiz QC, who represented the GP in court, said Doctor Chhapia had suffered from financial difficulties which got even worse because of the coronavirus pandemic and his deteriorating gambling disorder that has not been diagnosed at the time. He explained that the GP was now remorseful for the problems and pain he had caused and took full responsibility for his actions that had embarrassed the company.
According to a PPCA statement that was read to the court, the people of Portsmouth had lost a considerable portion of National Health Service (NHS) money that could have been spent for various health benefits. As revealed by the Prosecutor, following some negotiations, the gambling operators had agreed to refund the remaining £900,004 of the stolen money. This basically means that the healthcare group should get all the money illegally taken by Doctor Chhapia back.
Daniel Williams has started his writing career as a freelance author at a local paper media. After working there for a couple of years and writing on various topics, he found his interest for the gambling industry.