A POST office boss who was wrongfully convicted of stealing more than £50,000 said his 14-year ordeal has destroyed his health

Sami Sabet, from Rosslyn Road in Shoreham, says he suffered a heart attack due to the stress after faulty accounting software made it look as though money had been taken.

He told The Argus how he had to use credit cards, loans and even work as a petrol station toilet cleaner while paying back a false shortfall created by the Horizon IT system.

Mr Sabet was one of more than 700 sub-postmasters across the country who were eventually convicted as part of the Post Office sandal. 

His conviction was later overturned and he has now received an apology from the Post Office - but he is still fighting to get compensation.

The Argus: Sami Sabet outside his old shop in Ferry Road, Shoreham.Sami Sabet outside his old shop in Ferry Road, Shoreham.

Mr Sabet said: “The last 14 years have been like living in a prison without bars. I look back to where I was in life, it seems impossible I was once there.

“When I was at rock bottom I was cleaning toilets to make money and keep my businesses going. It was horrific.

“Apart from the fact people already see you as a thief, they don’t want to talk to you anymore. Then you get stares and people crossing the road to avoid you.

“And you’re having to do everything you can to save the people at your business. I couldn’t get it out of my mind.”

The Argus: On West Beach in Shoreham near his old shops and homeOn West Beach in Shoreham near his old shops and home

Mr Sabet was a subpostmaster for three post offices in Shoreham and Brighton from 2003.

However, his post offices inexplicably started losing money just after 2005, leaving him owing money to Post Office Limited.

Mr Sabet says he ended up having to pay more than £100,000 to the company, which is responsible for the running of Post Office branches across the country.

He added: “I was terrified, I was being accused of fanatically stealing. The onus is on the sub-postmaster to prove their innocence and prove there isn’t a shortage.

"All I had were these little slips that would be printed and I couldn’t see where these discrepancies had come from.

"I was becoming bankrupt from all the errors in the system. Post Office Limited were adamant it was nothing to do with them.

“I didn’t know what to do, I tried to set up meetings to discuss it but everything was just labelled as my fault, as if I’m incompetent and I don’t know how to run a business.”

The Argus: More than 700 sub-postmasters were prosecuted over 20 yearsMore than 700 sub-postmasters were prosecuted over 20 years

Mr Sabet was then charged with stealing more than £50,000 from his three post offices - Mill Lane in Portslade and East Beach and West Beach in Shoreham.

He eventually plead guilty in August 2009 and was given a one year prison sentence suspended for two years and ordered to do 180 hours community service.

When he was sentenced at Lewes Crown Court, judge Charles Kemp told him he had “lost his good character in spectacular fashion”.

The ordeal has left Mr Sabet with several health conditions which he puts down to stress, including suffering a heart attack which has left him partially sighted.

He also has type two diabetes and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which he is currently getting therapy for.

The Argus: Mr Sabet was told he had "lost" his good character when he was prosecutedMr Sabet was told he had "lost" his good character when he was prosecuted

Last July, The Court of Appeal overturned Mr Sabet's conviction, along with 11 other sub-postmasters.

The following month, he received a letter from Tim Parker, chairman of Post Office Limited, apologising and acknowledging “all the failings that occurred”.

The letter - seen by The Argus - also accepted that Mr Sabet did not have a fair trial due to the Post Office’s failures in its investigation which were “so egregious as to make your prosecution an affront to the conscience of the court”.

Mr Sabet is now retired, partially due to his health issues. He is back in Shoreham with his wife after moving away for a period following his conviction.

The Argus: Sami Sabet is retired now but is one of many people trying to get justice for the miscarriage of justiceSami Sabet is retired now but is one of many people trying to get justice for the miscarriage of justice

Mr Sabet said: “Not a single minute of a single day passed without me playing back the scenario of what happened, how it could have been changed. You feel guilty, you feel ashamed. You don’t talk to people about it but people know and they won’t say anything.

“After the conviction, I got into meditation and have been thinking I have got to move forward.

“People say I have been changed which is why I am seeking therapy now. As a family, we’re okay. But we’re just waiting for this closure now.”

Mr Sabet is one of many sub-postmasters still fighting to get compensation from Post Office Limited.

He is doing a guest talk on June 29 at Ropetackle Arts Centre in Shoreham as part of a show called Post Office Scandal: The Inside Story.