"An indication of the sophisticated criminality these offenders were engaged in."
Five men, all from London, were jailed on Friday, November 23, 2018, at Southwark Crown Court for operating a fraudulent Bangladeshi visa scam and stole £13 million from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).
The Court heard that law student Abul Kalam Muhammad Rezaul Karim, aged 42, led the operations of the organised crime group.
They had set up 79 fake companies and created fraudulent documents used by Bangladeshi nationals in fraudulent visa applications.
The gang also used the companies to falsely reclaim £13 million in tax repayments from HMRC over a period of six years.
Also part of the gang was Karim’s brother-in-law Enamul Karim, aged 34, Kazi Borkot Ullah, aged 39, Jalpa Trivedi, aged 41 and Mohammed Tamij Uddin, aged 47.
Prosecutor Julian Christopher described their offending as on an “industrial scale.”
Officers discovered that their clients were migrants who wanted to remain in the UK.
They had been charging them for temporary visas for a minimum of £700 in cash for their fraudulent immigration services.
The gang claimed their clients were employees of one of their bogus companies. They would then transfer money into their accounts and create false payslips.
One client, a worker at a fast food restaurant was able to claim annual earnings of almost £60,000.
The money was paid back to the advisor a month later. Between 2008 and 2013, millions of pounds were laundered through the bank accounts.
Trivedi enabled the fraud to happen as he provided official letters certifying the amounts the visa applicants had supposedly invested in their businesses.
It was heard that they provided false information on approximately 900 visa applications to ensure eligibility for a Tier 1 visa.
The gang’s fraudulent activity was uncovered in 2011 when the Home Office found a suspicious pattern in a series of point-based applications for Tier 1 visas.
Immigration Enforcement’s Criminal and Financial Investigation (CFI) team investigated into their wrongdoings and Karim and his accomplices were arrested on February 26, 2013.
Lyn Sari, Deputy Director, of the CFI, said: “My officers, working alongside our partners at HMRC, have conducted a thorough and complex investigation to dismantle a serious organised crime group that was intent on undermining the UK’s immigration system.
“The length of the investigation, the longest ever undertaken by CFI, is in itself an indication of the sophisticated criminality that these offenders were engaged in.
“My officers have shown tremendous tenacity, as well as expertise, to bring this case to a successful conclusion.
“It sends a clear message that we will not hesitate to prosecute anyone involved in this type of criminality.”
Karim, Enamul Karim and Ullah were re-arrested in 2017 for continuing the immigration fraud using different names.
After an extensive trial which lasted 35 weeks, all five members were found guilty of conspiracy to defraud on November 16, 2018.
Karim, Enamul Karim and Ullah ran away in July 2018 and warrants have been issued for their arrest but their whereabouts are unknown.
Ullah’s lawyer Nigel Sangster QC said he had “no idea where he is, in this country, Bangladesh or anywhere else.”
During the sentencing hearing, Judge Martin Griffith said: “The purpose was to fool the Home Office into granting visas and it worked.
“Eighteen people were granted visas based on false figures. Of those, three were allowed to become naturalised British citizens, and two given indefinite leave to remain.”
In their absence, Karim was sentenced 10 years and six months. Enamul Karim received a sentence of nine years and four months. Ullah was sentenced for five years and 10 months.
Trivedi was jailed for three years and Uddin was jailed for two years and six months.