London : Three Indian immigrants who ran what has been described as Britain’s biggest visa scam from an office in Southall, west London, have been jailed for up to eight years.
Jatinder Kumar Sharma, 44, who admitted his part in the scam, was jailed for seven years.
Two women he is thought to be married to – Rakhi Shahi, 31, and Neelam Sharma, 38 – were jailed for eight years and four years, respectively.
The three were found guilty of various charges, ranging from conspiracy to defraud, theft, and money laundering to immigration offences at Isleworth Crown Court Wednesday.
The court heard Jatinder has been married to Neelam Sharma for about 20 years and recently also married Shahi. Both marriages took place in India.
Sentencing, Judge Richard McGregor-Johnson said criticisms of government immigration agencies – made by the prosecution during the trial – were “plainly well founded”.
“The checks were woefully inadequate and frequently non-existent. You (the defendants) saw the weaknesses in those systems and dishonestly exploited them.”
Police suspect the trio’s company, Univisas, secured visas for at least 1,000 people, mostly from the Indian sub-continent, using a network of bogus colleges in London, Manchester, Bradford and Essex, for degrees.
Police have recovered 420,000 pounds of the 1.5 million the scam is said to have made.
“We believe we have cracked a major international conspiracy to facilitate the entry of illegal immigrants into the UK. Those behind it showed total disregard for the law, and their motives were purely financial,” said Tony Smith, the regional director of the UK Border Agency.