The 'cash for visas' scam proved to be lucrative.
Two Manchester-based people and one from Rotherham have been convicted of running a fraudulent college scam on the back of illegal immigration worth £3.5 million.
Tashina Nayyar, aged 51, of Chorlton, was jailed for two years and three months at Manchester Crown Court after pleading guilty to conspiracy to facilitate breaches of UK immigration law before the trial.
Koteswara Nallamothu, aged 36, of Rotherham, will be sentenced in March as his barrister was unable to attend the sentencing hearing.
Muhammad Babar Bashir, aged 38, of Moss Side, failed to turn up to the hearing and has gone on the run. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.
It was heard that they had been running an illegal immigration scheme using fake colleges which generated huge sums of money. The scam took place over a period of two years, beginning in 2016.
These bogus institutions looked legitimate from the outside but there were no books, equipment or teachers giving lessons.
Bashir found it to be a way of profiting from 1,300 people who wanted to live and study in the UK, who were otherwise ineligible. The ‘cash for visas’ scam proved to be lucrative.
The trio operated by taking over failing further education colleges, which were previously legitimately run, and using them as a cash cow.
They were involved with St John College in Ashton, and Kinnaird College in Stevenson Square, Manchester city centre.
People would hand over cash to Bashir and Nayyar in exchange for a ‘golden ticket’ which was a confirmation of acceptance of study (CAS) letter. This enabled them to get a student visa.
Some were genuine students who wanted to learn, others were not.
On one occasion at Kinnaird College, which was operated by Nayyar, Home Office officials saw students knocking on the door and trying to get in.
Most of the students who applied for CAS were already living in the EU but used it as a way of securing their immigration status.
The scam saw £2.6 million go through St John College’s accounts and another £856,000 go through the accounts of Kinnaird College.
In total 955 ‘students’ were granted a CAS letter through St John College, with 352 at Kinnaird. Both colleges were later shut down by the Home Office.
Bashir boasted of the wealth he created for himself. The grinning ringleader posed with at least £65,000 in cash on a bed.
Under UK law, students living outside of the EU are able to study in the UK under the law at tier four colleges, which have been given permission to provide such educational courses.
Colleges have to obtain a sponsor licence from the Home Office, which then allows them to offer CAS to students.
Legitimate students entering the UK who need CAS for their course usually pay a fee of £14 as an administration fee to the Home Office.
However, Nallamothu was advertising it on his phone as costing “£500 with or without English.”
Students enrolling on these courses are required to be able to speak English.
Police searched Nayyar’s home and found £90,000 in cash hidden in her attic. They found a further £29,500 in a safety deposit box.
Bashir and Nallamothu were convicted of conspiracy to facilitate breaches of UK immigration law. A third man, Ayaz Ahmed, aged 38, of Nottingham, was acquitted during the trial.
Bashir failed to turn up to his sentencing and is a wanted fugitive. Tashnia Nayyar was jailed for two years and three months.
After Nayyar’s sentence, David Magrath, deputy director of Immigration Enforcement’s Criminal and Financial Investigations (CFI) team, said:
“Nayyar purported to be selling an education, but, all she was selling were documents which customers were told were golden tickets to a life in the UK.
“Since this abuse was uncovered a number of reforms have been made to the immigration system which has slashed student fraud and made it much harder for criminals like Nayyar to operate.
“Those measures and the robust action we have taken in this case demonstrates that we will not tolerate abuse of the immigration rules and will pursue any sponsors that try to profit by cheating the system.”