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British Indian jailed over false travel documents

Simranpal Singh-Kooner had obtained false documents to travel to Canada.

india Updated: Mar 19, 2007 12:55 IST

An Indian citizen, who worked in Britain legally since May 2005 but obtained false documents to travel to Canada, has pleaded guilty and faces a six-month jail sentence.

Simranpal Singh-Kooner, 30, had a visa that allowed him to enter Britain in May 2005 and was legally allowed to remain and work here until May this year. He could not obtain a visa to Canada on his Indian passport, prompting him to secure a false British passport and try to travel to Canada.

Singh-Kooner pleaded guilty last week at the Warwick Crown Court to possessing a false identity document with intent. He also admitted obstructing a constable following his arrest at the Birmingham airport.

Prosecuting lawyer Kathryn Roughton said that on Feb 17, Singh-Kooner tried to check in for an Air India flight to Toronto, but when he handed over his passport the clerk on the check-in desk was suspicious.

A check was carried out that revealed that the British passport, which had Singh-Kooner's picture but was in the name of Kulwinder Singh, was false.

When he was arrested Singh-Kooner gave his name as Harpreet Singh and claimed he had entered the country illegally in the back of a lorry in 2006 and had paid 2,000 pounds for the passport and travel documents because he wanted to start a new life in Canada.

But after he had been charged in that name he revealed his true identity to the police and confessed that he had actually entered the country as a legal immigrant.

Tom Schofield, defending lawyer, said: "I am sure Your Honour will see the irony of this case, that he was trying to leave the country rather than enter, and he was legally here. He had to obtain a false passport because he could not obtain a visa for Canada on his Indian passport."

Jailing Singh-Kooner and recommending that he then be deported, Recorder Nigel Baker told him: "One of the ironies of this case is that you had permission to stay in this country, and yet you went on to commit this offence to try to get out of the country to Canada."

The West Midlands police have been monitoring Air India's service from Birmingham to Toronto in Canada after the case highlighted the racket. The said route is reported to be so notorious that police have even produced pre-prepared witness statements to cut the time officers spent on each case.

A similar case was decided in the Warwick Crown Court recently when an illegal immigrant of Indian origin was jailed for nine months for trying to board the flight with a stolen British passport.

Harjit Singh, 25, reportedly paid 2,000 pounds for the document but was apprehended as he tried to check in at the airport. Singh worked at a farm in Evesham, Worcestershire, before trying to board the flight Jan 21.

His British passport, in the name of Shamus Hussain, was found to be false. Investigations revealed it had been stolen and Singh's photograph placed inside. Singh admitted he had lived in Britain illegally since 1998 and paid for the false passport so he could reach Canada.

A West Midlands Police spokesperson said: "We have been made aware of this issue and are monitoring the situation alongside Birmingham International Airport."

Air India officials insisted they had stringent check-in procedures and no passengers had been allowed to board the service with fake or stolen passports. They said it was the only carrier flying between Birmingham and Toronto.

"There have been four cases in the past year and our security caught them all and they were not allowed to board," a spokesman said.