“VISA SCAM GANG LET IN HUNDREDS”
By LEON WATSON
Published: 06 May 2009
THREE Indian illegal immigrants masterminded the single biggest visa scam seen in Britain, a court heard today.
The gang ran a fraud factory creating thousands of counterfeit documents enabling hundreds to cheat border controls, Isleworth Crown Court in West London was told.
Prosecutor Francis Sheridan said the systematic attack opened the door to hundreds of unsuitable migrants without means to support themselves leaving the taxpayer to foot the bill.
He said one member was secretly recorded boasting how Home Office officials do not even bother to look at documents and just stamp them blindly.
Mr Sheridan told the jury: They were acting on behalf of clients to cheat the Home Office, to cheat the Home Office wholesale.
They have made a fortune, there are no bones about that, they have made a small fortune at the hands of the Home Office.
Met Police officers and officials from the UK Border Agency swooped on Univisa, based in Southall, West London, in February 2008.
They acted after a local newspaper journalist posing as a migrant uncovered evidence of counterfeit documents for sale, the court heard.
They discovered a mountain of 90,000 documents including false university certificates, academic records, bank statements and pay slips.
Investigators seized 980 individual files and of 117 analysed in detail, 113 were found to contain fraudulent information.
Mr Sheridan said the fraud focused on abusing the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme which is designed to enable well qualified individuals with useful skills to work in Britain.
He said the company would charge up to 4,000 to obtain visas and those behind the scam were so confident they offered a money back guarantee.
The barrister said: The defendants can be said to have launched a systematic attack on the integrity of the Home Office by their submission of false and bogus documents.
In some instances applicants from very humble backgrounds found themselves to be the holders of degrees and post-graduate qualifications in a matter of months.
Academic ability was not the main criteria, cash was. They have achieved that status on arriving in the UK by paying for it without the troublesome step of attending college.
He added: It is believed this prosecution represents the largest single prosecution of dishonest records ever submitted to the Home Office by an individual business. It is a huge attack on the system.
Those behind the business were Jatinder Kumar Sharma, 44, his wife Rakhi Shahi, 31, and a second woman Neelam Sharma, 38, who may also be his wife, the court heard.
Mr Sheridan said the trio, who lived together in Southall, hid behind a web of false identities and documentation.
He said the three submitted false applications to remain in Britain themselves and then used the same techniques with gay abandon in the criminal business.
The prosecutor said arrogant Sharma dubbed himself son of a lion and his money back guarantee typified his scandalous disregard for the system.
Shahi was the sole owner of the business which turned over far in excess of his declared 100,000 per year earnings, the court heard.
Neelam Sharma worked in the engine room of the company creating false documents and fraudulently declaring them as genuine under the guise of an accredited immigration consultant, it is alleged.
It can be reported today for the first time that Jatinder Sharma pleaded guilty to a series of immigration offences at an earlier hearing.
The two women defendants deny conspiracy to defraud, possessing criminal property and several immigration offences.
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