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A cafe owner stole nearly £25,000 worth of electricity over 12 years after tampering with the meter at his business.

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Tahar Hadjoudj, 58, extracted the power illegally at Cafe Paradise in Blackstock Road, Finsbury Park, and only got found out after police became suspicious during a search of the premises for an unrelated matter.

Blackfriars Crown Court heard that in February last year officers working under Operation Harford – a crackdown on the handling stolen mobile phones and anti-social behaviour in the area – noticed the electricity meter at the business, which has since closed, looked like it had been interfered with.

Officials from a power company were called in to investigate further and found a small hole had been drilled in the meter, enabling an object to slow down the disc which records the consumption of electricity, the court was told.

Further inspection also revealed that the main junction box had been wired directly into the mains so that electricity used would by-pass the meter altogether – it meant that no electricity which was used in the cafe, located on the corner of Rock Street, was paid for since 2002.

Det Con Kevin Johansen of Islington Police said: ”Eagle eyed Islington officers spotted a defect on the electrical meter when they visited the cafe. This conviction will be a reminder to those that tamper with their electrical meters”.

Hadjouj, who also lives in Blackstock Road, pleaded guilty to abstracting using electricity without authority on December 16 and will be sentenced later this month.

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