‘Shambolic system allowed Indians to run British visa fraud’

LONDON - A naive and shambolic system has been blamed for allowing a gang of three Indians to run what has been described as Britain’s biggest visa scam.

“The Home Office system was designed to operate with trust. The evidence shows it was naive in its conception and shambles in reality,” public prosecutor Francis Sheridan told Isleworth Crown Court Wednesday.

The court is hearing a case involving three illegal Indian immigrants - Jatinder Sharma, his wife Rakhi Shahi and Neelam Sharma - who are accused of running a massive visa scam from their offices in Southall in west London.

With Jatinder, 44, having already admitted several offences, the court is hearing charges against his wife Shahi, 31, and Neelam, 38, the mother of his two children. All three live together.

The scam was discovered when Jatinder offered a reporter a false diploma and other papers for 4,000 pounds ($6,500), leading to police and home ministry raids on the trio’s company Univisas last year.

The court was told officials found 90,000 documents and 980 individual files, including false university certificates, academic records, bank statements and pay slips.

Sheridan said the case was a damning indictment of the British home ministry, whose officials failed to spot dozens of bogus graduate applications.

Sheridan also criticised the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner, saying applications that had omitted important information were nevertheless approved.

Exams to qualify as an immigration adviser were open to fraud as they could be taken online, the prosecutor added.

The trio is accused of exploiting would-be immigrants by providing them with false papers for fees ranging from hundreds to thousands of pounds.

Sheridan described Shahi as an accomplished liar and crook who was the brains behind the business and said Neelam was also a committed liar who worked in the “engine room”.


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