Jailed: Fraudsters who facilitated 900 fake visa applications and tried to falsely claim £13m in tax repayments
PUBLISHED: 18:29 23 November 2018 | UPDATED: 18:30 23 November 2018
Five fraudsters who ran an "industrial scale" bogus visa application ring and then tried to claim millions in tax have been sentenced to a total of 31 years in jail.
Ringleader Abul Kalam Muhammad Rezaul Karim, who is now on the run, and his accomplices set up 32 false companies and created fake documentation, used by Bangladeshi nationals in an estimated 900 fraudulent visa applications.
Karim, 42, of Albert Basin Way, Beckton, and known as AKM, was sentenced to 10 and a half years in his absence today (Friday) after being found guilty following a 35-week trial.
His brother-in-law Enamul Karim, 34, and Kazi Borkot Ullah, 39, both of Halbutt Street, Dagenham, Jalpa Trivedi, 41, of St Albans and Mohammed Tamij Uddin, 47, of Witan Street, Bethnal Green, were also convicted.
At Southwark Crown Court Judge Martin Griffith said: “The purpose was to fool the Home Office into granting visas and it worked.
“Eighteen people were granted visas based on false figures. Of those, three were allowed to become naturalised British citizens, and two given indefinite leave to remain.”
Prosecutor Julian Christopher said the offending was on an “industrial scale”.
Like AKM, Karim and Ullah were not in court for the sentencing after absconding in July.
Ullah’s lawyer Nigel Sangster QC said he had “no idea where he is, in this country, Bangladesh or anywhere else”.
All five defendants were found guilty of conspiracy to defraud by making false Tier 1 applications between December 31, 2008 and February 27, 2013.
AKM, Karim and Ullah were re-arrested in 2017 for continuing the immigration fraud using different entities.
All three were also convicted of conspiring to defraud by submitting false information in respect of applications for leave to remain in the United Kingdom between March 1 2013 and May 5 2017.
AKM, Karim, Ullah and Trivedi were also found guilty of conspiracy to cheat the public revenue between December 31 2008 and February 27 2013.
Judge Griffith sentenced AKM to 10 and a half years, Karim was handed nine years and four months, Ullah received five years and 10 months, Trivedi three years and Uddin two and a half years.
The judge told Trivedi, a former qualified accountant, and Uddin, a former barrister, who were stood in the dock, that it was “such an assault on the immigration policy of this country” that he “would have been wrong to suspend” their sentences.
During the immigration scam, the five defendants charged some clients on temporary visas wanting to remain in the UK a minimum of £700 in cash for their fraudulent immigration services.
Using the fake companies, they attempted to fraudulently reclaim £13 million in tax repayments from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) over a six-year period.
The fraud was uncovered in 2011 when the Home Office identified a suspicious pattern in a series of points-based applications for Tier 1 general and entrepreneur visas.
Both routes had a significant financial requirement, with applicants earning points based either on previous earnings or by demonstrating they had access to a minimum of £50,000 to invest in UK business.
The gang claimed their clients were employees as part of their tax and immigration fraud - creating fake payslips and providing false information on hundreds of applications to ensure eligibility for a Tier 1 visa.
At the time of the offences, Tier 1 (General) and Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visas were both potential paths to obtaining settlement in the UK.
They transferred money into clients’ bank accounts to make them appear well-paid employees, with one, a worker at a fast food restaurant, able to claim annual earnings of almost £60,000.
The money was paid back to the adviser the following month and, between 2008 and 2013, millions were laundered through the bank accounts.
Trivedi enabled the fraud to happen by providing official letters certifying the amounts the visa applicants had supposedly invested in their businesses.
Hundreds of bogus tax repayment claims million were also attempted, with £172,000 being paid out.
HMRC said had the fraud not been identified, the estimated tax loss could have reached £13 million.