"These men orchestrated a systematic abuse of the English language testing system"
English test scammers Mehboob Jilani and Muhammad Bilal were jailed at Preston Crown Court on June 21, 2019, for their roles in an English language test scam.
They oversaw systematic cheating on English language tests at colleges in Manchester and Salford.
Jilani and Bilal were managers at Secure English Language Test (SELT) centres when they carried out the scam.
The operation involved arranging for English speaking individuals to sit SELT exams on behalf of foreign nationals.
They fraudulently obtained qualifications that would be used to support applications for student visas or jobs.
Both men carried out the scam at the Innovative Learning Centre and Apex College, both on Charles Street, Manchester, as well as the Manchester College of Accountancy and Management in Eccles.
The colleges were accredited to deliver the tests on behalf of Educational Testing Services (ETS), a Home Office-licensed company.
Evidence of cheating first came to light when ETS inspectors carried out unannounced visits at the colleges in 2013.
During one inspector, a power cut occurred before inspectors could carry out checks on the candidates.
Jilani, who acted as an administrator, blamed a “fuse blowing” for the power cut.
It actually acted as a window for the “pilots” to leave the room and switch places with the real candidates.
During a visit to the Eccles college in June 2013, where Bilal oversaw the tests, inspectors saw one student appearing to use a translation programme during the speaking section of the test.
All three colleges were subsequently raided as part of a UK-wide investigation into suspected abuse of the English language testing system.
Investigators discovered that phones belonging to Jilani contained hundreds of text messages organising and discussing the use of “pilots”.
“Pilot lists” were also found at Jilani’s home detailing names of students as well as the pilots who had taken the tests on their behalf.
The organisers were charging individuals up to £750 for a test whereas the ETS offered them for £180.
The two men were found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud on April 3, 2019, at Burnley Crown Court.
Anthony Hilton, from Immigration Enforcement Criminal and Financial Investigations, said:
“These men orchestrated a systematic abuse of the English language testing system, enabling candidates to cheat their way to a qualification – and potentially a visa – to which they were not entitled.
“They used every trick in the book to try and avoid being caught, even staging ‘power cuts’ during inspections as a cover.”
“The fraud was driven by a desire for personal financial gain, with each bogus test earning the offenders hundreds of pounds.
“Our investigations into English language test abuse are continuing across the country.
“This case demonstrates our determination to root out all those involved in organised immigration criminality and bring them to justice.”
At Preston Crown Court, the English test scammers were sentenced.
Mehboob Jilani, aged 33, of Cheadle Hulme, was jailed for four years.
Muhammad Bilal, aged 35, of Swinton, Manchester, was sentenced to two years in prison.
A third man, Shaid Iqbal acted as an “agent”, supplying applicants or test takers for the scam. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud before the trial.
Manchester Evening News reported that Iqbal received a 15-month sentence, suspended for 18 months.
On April 25, 2019, at Burnley Crown Court, he was ordered to undertake 100 hours of community service.