[Assam] [assam] UK immigration scam: Indian couple sentenced
bbaruah at aol.com
Sat May 19 18:16:36 IST 2012
Times of India (May 19, 2012)
LONDON: An Indian citizen who arrived as a student in 2000 and went on
to perpetuate a series of immigration scams to earn hundreds of
thousands of pounds by helping many Indian citizens and others to stay
in Britain illegally, has been jailed for 10 years.
Vijay Sorthia, 35, will be deported to India at the end of his 10-year
sentence, while his 31-year-old his wife, Bhawna Sorthia, who helped
him carry out the scams, was jailed for 15 months and also faces
deportation to India.
The couple have three children. The sentences were pronounced in the
Isleworth Crown Court on Wednesday.
When Sorthia was arrested at his house in north-west London in May
2010, officials of the UK Border Agency (UKBA) found over 330,000
pounds in cash.
Sorthia and his wife ran an immigration advisory company called
UKBA spokesman Adam Edwards said: "Mr Sorthia had dozens of clients who
had applied to the Home Office for extensions to their visas, claiming
to be 'highly skilled migrants'. They were mainly Indian and most of
them were already here".
Sorthia had accreditation as an adviser with the Office of the
Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC), which is linked to the Home
The accreditation enabled him to assist individuals with claims for
asylum, as well as immigration, residence and citizenship applications.
Edwards added: "What the couple did was set up a number of cover
companies with bank accounts registered in their own names which would
provide clients with pay slips and wage payments to make it look like
they were employed as things like IT specialists and earning much more
than they actually were".
Between 2008 and 2010, the couple helped more than 160 'clients'
illegally gain visa extensions by providing them false documents to
claim that they were highly skilled migrants.
Fifteen clients who benefited from the Sorthia scam have also been
convicted and sentenced between 8 to 10 months in prison.
Fourteen of them have been banished from UK. The 'clients' reportedly
paid the couple between 3,000 pounds and 4,000 pounds for their service.
"When officers searched Sorthia's property they found approximately
330,000 pounds in cash," Edwards said.
Most of that money, 270,000 pounds, was in a holdall in the back of a
cupboard but other bundles of money were also discovered, which had
clients' numbers and names on them.
UKBA's senior investigating officer Robert Coxhead said: "Vijay and
Bhawna Sorthia knowingly flouted the UK's immigration laws. They ran a
sophisticated scam designed to help people who would otherwise have no
right to be here to stay in the UK.
"The amount of cash found at their home illustrates how lucrative this
was, and we will now begin the process of stripping them of those
assets using the Proceeds of Crime Act".
The court was told that following their arrest in May 2010, the couple
sold their London house and transferred 466,000 pounds out of the
country and went to India.
They were arrested again after they returned to Britain in July 2011.
Sorthia was convicted of obtaining or seeking to obtain leave to enter
UK by deception on or before 24 October 2004, conspiracy to defraud
between 1 April 2008 and 30 September 2010, possession of 332,000
pounds of criminal property, removing criminal property from England
and Wales and possessing articles for use in fraud.
Bhawna was convicted of being concerned in an arrangement to facilitate
the acquisition, retention, use or control of criminal property by
Vijay Sorthia and others before 30 September 2010, removing criminal
property from England and Wales and possessing articles for use in
Sentencing the couple at Isleworth Crown Court, Judge Andrew McDowall
said Sorthia's actions risked 'undermining' Britain's immigration
controls and 'eroding public confidence' that migrants had arrived
He warned: "During difficult economic times, it becomes easier for
those who are motivated by racial motives to start casting aspersions
against those that are properly and legitimately in the country by
trying to paint everyone of that ethnic group as tainted in some way,
over the wrongdoings done by a limited number."
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