An Indian national, who tried to submit hundreds of fraudulent visa applications, has been sentenced to four years and nine months in prison following an investigation by the UK Border Agency (UKBA).
Bhavin Shah (34), a resident of Edgbaston Road in Watford (England), pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring to defraud the UK Home Office, giving immigration advice illegally and money laundering during the first day of his trial at Isleworth crown court.
Paul Tansiri, who led the investigation for the UKBA, said Shah, operating from his business premises in Wembley and Alperton, charged clients £3,000 (about Rs 2.6 lakh) to £5,000 (Rs 4.4 lakh) to process their applications for visa extensions even though he wasn't a registered immigration advisor or solicitor.
Tansiri said Shah would then use forged bank statements and qualification certificates to support their applications, often without the applicant's knowledge. Some of these documents were found stored in computers seized from his addresses during UKBA raids in November 2011.
The raids followed information supplied by an undercover newspaper reporter, to whom Shah had boasted about how he could circumvent the system. Financial investigations showed that Shah had transferred around £300,000 (about Rs 2.64 crore) to bank accounts in India.
Tansiri said Shah was a conman who thought he could cheat the system. "Not only will Shah face deportation after serving his sentence, we have also begun Proceeds of Crime Act proceedings to prevent him from benefiting financially from his crimes," he added.
Shah was also given a £190,000 (approximately Rs 1.67 crore) confiscation order, which he has to pay within six months or face an extra two years and nine months on top of the concurrent sentences. His sentencing followed the conviction of John Masih (39) of Sutton Lane, Hounslow, who also played a key role in the scam.
Masih, who produced many of the fake bank statements and documents used by Shah, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud and illegally providing immigration advice during a separate hearing. He was jailed for 18 months for conspiracy to defraud and six months for illegally providing immigration advice. The sentences will run concurrently.