"the colleges were just a façade to make money"
Three people, namely, Koteswara Nallamothu, aged 37, Muhammad Babar Bashir, aged 38, and Tehshina Nayyar, aged 51, have been sentenced for running a student visa immigration scam worth £650,000.
The trial at Manchester Crown Court heard how the three of them created a criminal operation using colleges to make money from over 1,300 people, who were desperate to live and study in the UK.
The colleges they used to amass the ‘cash for visas’ were St John College in the area of Ashton-under-Lyne and Kinnaird College in Manchester city centre.
Both of these colleges were being run legitimately before the gang took them over, to run as fake colleges, which had no books, equipment or teachers providing lessons to the foreign students they enrolled.
For the enrolling process, students would pay to join and then would be sent a confirmation document, called a confirmation of acceptance of study (CAS) letter.
This CAS letter then allowed students as non-EU citizens, to apply to the Home Office for student visas. Thus, allowing them to live and study in the UK.
St John College was managed and controlled by Muhammad Babar Bashir. Confirmation of acceptance for studies to commence between September 2012 and February 2013 was given to 955 students at this ‘college’.
Koteswara Nallamothu was a middle man. He acted as an agent, of which there were many. He aided Bashir in the operation.
Nallamothu assisted by finding Bashir ‘students’ who would enrol onto the scam but with no intention of studying at the college. Therefore, getting a visa to the UK for the payment and CAS letter.
Usually, any students wishing to enter the UK who need a CAS, pay a nominal fee of £14 to the Home Office for administration.
But it was revealed that Nallamothu was advertising it on his mobile phone at the cost of ‘£500 with or without English’.
The court heard that the majority of students who applied the scam were actually already living in the EU and looked at it as a means of securing their immigration status.
Some did buy CAS documents genuinely and wanted to study.
As for the second institute, Kinnaird College, involved in the fraud, it was where Tehshina Nayyar was already working.
Nayyar began to work on the scam with Bashir in January 2014 and supplied him with 352 CAS letters which cost £500 each.
Bashir then enrolled 352 students into Kinnaird College using the CAS letters provided by Nayyar.
The court was told that Home Office officials saw students knocking on the door and trying to get in at Kinnaird College.
However, prosecutor Jane Greenhalgh, highlighted the nature of the students saying:
“If these were genuine students, then one might have expected that they would have come forward.”
Teshina Nayyar pleaded guilty to her involvement in the scam in July 2018.
Bashir and Nallamothu denied being involved in immigration fraud but were convicted in October 2018.
Sentencing Nallamothu and Bashir on March 18, 2019, the judge handed punishment deemed fit for the fraudulent immigration crimes.
Koteswara Nallamothu was given a 24 month suspended prison term.
Muhammad Babar Bashir was sentenced in his absence to six years’ imprisonment.
Tehshina Nayyar had already been sentenced and jailed in January 2019, for 27 months.
CPS Specialist Prosecutor, Arslan Khan, said:
“These men said they were running two colleges in the UK giving an education to foreign students.
“Instead the colleges were just a façade to make money out of abusing the student visa system and providing people a way of staying in the UK.
“These defendants made significant amounts of money in their fraud which provided a golden ticket to UK immigrants paying for a UK visa.
“The CPS was able to present compelling evidence to secure their guilt including photos of one college which was found to be locked up and deserted during a check.”