Wednesday, 27 October 2010

More enrichment in the North East. Who says immigration doesn't pay?

CORRUPT Wearside barrister Syed Ahmed has been jailed for eight-and-a-half years for his role in a massive immigration scam that netted millions of pounds.

Ahmed, 36, of Havelock Terrace, Sunderland, was one of five people involved in running a bogus college and fraudulent immigration firm in London.

The gang was arrested after an investigation by the UK Border Agency’s London Immigration Crime Team, a specialist unit of police from the Metropolitan Police working alongside UK Border Agency officers, when a raid on his house saw them seize £2.65million in cash that had been kept in a back room.

Former lawyer Ahmed was found guilty of conspiring to assist unlawful immigration but cleared of money laundering charges, following a three-week trial at Southwark Crown Court.

Last year four gang members – Ahmed’s Chinese wife Junjie Kao, 30, Chinese national Wie Xing 30, and Bangladeshi nationals Khaled Mahmud and Tareq Mahmud, both 35, were jailed for a total of 25 years for conspiring to assist unlawful immigration.

Kao and Xing also pleaded guilty to money laundering offences.

At the heart of the gang’s conspiracy was Thames College London, which claimed to offer genuine courses of education from premises in Whitechapel. It was, in fact, a sham.

It was run day-to-day by Khaled and Tareq Mahmud – but Ahmed was listed as a lecturer in law.

The gang would provide fake documents and certificates through the college, which were then used to support visa applications to the Home Office for their clients.

Those applications were processed by a legal company called Virgil Legal Services Ltd, for which Ahmed was the accredited legal adviser.

The firm – based in Shaftesbury Avenue – claimed to provide advice to students from China and the Far East who wanted to apply for or extend visas and advertised its services in Chinese newspapers.

It is believed the fraudsters raked in millions from the operation after the £2.65million was discovered by agency officers stuffed into boxes and suitcases underneath a bed in the flat Ahmed shared with Kao and Xing in south-east London.

Detective Superintendent Chris Foster, head of the agency’s London immigration crime teams, said: “This was an extremely complex investigation that involved many thousands of pages of documentary evidence seized from a bogus college and a corrupt law firm.

“The amount of cash seized from here highlights the attraction that immigration crime has for gangs.”

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