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3 Indians in mother of all British visa scams

Three Indian illegal immigrants have been accused of running the biggest visa scam in British history, allowing foreign nationals to enter Britain using fake documents. Vijay Dutt reports.

world Updated: May 08, 2009 00:58 IST
Vijay Dutt

Three Indian illegal immigrants have been accused of running the biggest visa scam in British history, allowing foreign nationals to enter Britain using fake documents.

Ringleader Jatinder Sharma, 44, has pleaded guilty to a raft of immigration offences. His alleged co-conspirators, Neelam Sharma, 39, and Rakhi Shahi, 32 — both of who are said to be married to Sharma — too are facing a range of charges. They are also accused of entering and remaining in Britain illegally.

The trio, based in Southall, set up a firm, UniVisa, and provided foreigners access to Britain for cash on a no win, no fee basis.

Between October 2006 and May last, UniVisa — which claimed to help would-be immigrants with their paperwork — submitted 980 applications which were rubber-stamped by the Home Office. Police said it was the biggest visa scam in Britain’s history and the three made a fortune out of it.

They provided counterfeit documents to their clients, enabling hundreds to cheat border control. When police raided the home the trio shared in Southall, a London suburb, they found some 90,000 pages of documents, including 980 visa application files. Of these 117 were carefully analysed, with only four not raising significant concerns about their legitimacy.

Prosecution lawyer Francis Sheridan said the "systematic attack" allowed in hundreds of unsuitable migrants without means to support themselves, leaving the taxpayer to pick up the tab.

The case is being tried at Isleworth Crown Court in west London. Jatinder, who provided customers with fake degree papers, references and CVs, allegedly told a potential client: "They (the Home Office) don't even bother to look at your documents. They don't care what documents you have sent. They just stamp them blindly.”

"Between them, they submitted the largest number of fraudulent visa applications ever received by the Home Office from one source, making this the biggest immigration scam ever seen in this country," Sheridan said. "Applicants with humble backgrounds found themselves in possession of degrees… and diplomas within a matter of months. They achieved them by paying for it, thereby avoiding the rather troublesome step of actually having to attend a college and study...”