- Michael Banana accused of getting cash for a council house he didn’t live in
- Accused of faking break-up with his benefit cheat wife Caroline Banana
- Stockport Council want £2,485 from Mr Banana or they will take him to court
- His late-father was Canaan Sodindo Banana, president of Zimbabwe in 1980s
- Mrs Banana won £95,000 on Deal Or No Deal but still claimed benefits
- In April she admitted six charges and ordered to do 215 hours unpaid work
By Martin Robinson
The son of a former Zimbabwe president has been investigated by a council for benefit fraud in an alleged scam involving his wife, a £95,000 winner on Deal Or No Deal.
Michael Banana is accused of receiving cash for a council house while living elsewhere with benefit cheat Caroline Banana, who tasted success on Noel Edmonds’ games show.
Mrs Banana – who continued to claim benefits despite the mammoth win – was filmed by undercover officers for a series about the UK’s worst fraudsters.
But while they were following her they discovered husband Michael, the son of notorious ex-president Canaan Sodindo Banana, was living with her in Stoke.
He appeared alongside her on the Channel 4 show hosted by Noel Edmonds, and investigators found Facebook pictures of them on holiday together. Stockport Council is now pursuing him for a housing benefit overpayment of £2,485 – which he is appealing against.
They say unless he pays up they will take him to court.
Mr Banana’s late-father was the infamous Canaan Sodindo Banana, president of the African nation for most of the 80s.
The no-nonsense leader passed a law in 1982 forbidding people for making jokes about his name, but was disgraced in 1998 when he was found guilty of 11 charges of sexual assault.
He was sentenced to ten years in jail – nine of which were suspended – and his wife and family, including son Michael, sought political asylum in Britain in October 2000. President Robert Mugabe described Banana senior as ‘a rare gift to the nation’ when he died in 2003.
Steve Prince, the main investigator for Stoke-on-Trent City Council in Mrs Banana’s case, staked out her house and her children’s school for weeks to track her movements. He was alarmed to see her and Mr Banana – also known as Michael Thabo – acting like a couple.
He added: ‘She’s been claiming benefits from people like myself that contribute to that system.
‘When she won the money, it was the time to say thank you for your help, I don’t need that money anymore.’
Mr Prince also discovered Mr Banana had come from luxurious beginnings before coming to the UK with his family as political refugees, and his family had lived in an impressive state house in Zimbabwe.
Mrs Banana, 40, admitted continuing to claim £6,147.92 worth of housing benefit, income support and council tax benefit after winning the TV quiz show in November 2011. The mother-of-three was sentenced to a 12-month community order and ordered to do 215 hours of unpaid work.
Michael is not yet facing criminal proceedings, but has been asked to pay back the cash he received while living with her, between September 2011 and June 2012.
A spokesman for Stockport Council said: ‘We have considered all the information provided and will be upholding the decision that Mr Banana wasn’t a resident at the property.’
If he does not pay, the council could decide to launch criminal proceedings. Mr Banana denies the claims. The full extent of Mrs Banana’s mammoth scam was shown on BBC One’s Panorama – Britain On The Fiddle last Wednesday.
The BBC team spent 18 months following her and a host of other cheats for the three-part series presented by reporter Richard Bilton. He was approached by the BBC team and refused to comment. Daily Mail