Seven men have been sentenced after 200 illegal immigrants were charged £12,000 each for fake documents in a scam to allow them to stay in the UK.
The operation, uncovered by immigration officers during a raid, was run from Ataur Talukdar’s travel and cargo business in Hyde, Greater Manchester.
His associate Haroon Miah, a Barclays bank clerk, had opened accounts to aid the scam, Manchester Crown Court heard.
The accounts, opened in Hyde, were for people from as far away as Aberdeen.
John Dilworth, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “These defendants were involved in a sophisticated and well organised criminal enterprise which provided individuals with the necessary documents to enable them to reside in the UK and access all the benefits that a British citizen is entitled to.”
The Home Office investigation started when officers visited Talukdar’s business Miftah Travel and Cargo in Hyde in January 2011, and discovered a man with an envelope of fake documents and £12,000 in cash.
Barclays in Hyde
The scam saw accounts opened at Barclays in Hyde for people from as far away as Aberdeen
Among the documents was a Barclays Bank statement for an account opened by Talukdar less than an hour previously under a different name, having been dealt with by staff member Haroon Miah.
On searching the office, more forged bills, passports and documents were found, leading to the imprisonment of seven men, mainly from Bangladesh, for fraud and identity offences.
They paid up to £15,000 each for the papers in the hope of getting naturalisation and then British citizenship which would allow them access to benefits and to bring other family members to live in the UK.
When he was arrested, immigration officers found 17 different bank cards in nine different names on Talukdar.
His bank accounts showed hundreds of thousands of pounds unaccounted for, including payments from two men who went on to be convicted of immigration offences.
Much of the money paid for the documents was laundered by family and friends Talukdar had helped gain new identities, the court heard.
Minimise fraud risk
Another associate, Wahidur Rahman, used his position as chief executive of Oldham-based Community Skills Development Agency to supply false references suggesting high salaries for mortgage applications.
Director Neil Flynn said Rahman resigned two years ago but still does voluntary work in the office.
Mr Flynn said: “He just comes in occasionally to volunteer. It’s a personal matter for him, he is no longer the CEO.”
Barclays said it takes steps to minimise the risk of staff fraud but “it is something that can happen in any organisation no matter how stringent the vetting procedures are”.
The following sentences were handed to the men involved:
Ringleader Ataur Talukdar, 49, of Clocktower Close, Hyde, received eight years after being found guilty of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and commit fraud, and money laundering
Bank clerk Haroon Miah, 26, of Henry Street, Hyde, was handed three years after being found guilty of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration
Mohammed Habibur Rahman, 32, of Nelson Street, Hyde, was found guilty of money laundering and identity document offences and handed four years three months
Luftur Rahman, 41, of Tower Street, Hyde, was found guilty of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration, obtaining leave to remain in the UK by deception and theft and received 12 months
Juber Ahmed, 45, of Great Norbury Street, Hyde, was handed 12 months after being found guilty of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and commit fraud
Mohammed Motiur Rahman, 34, of Nelson Street, Hyde, received two years six months after earlier pleading guilty to money laundering, identity offences and obtaining leave to remain in the UK by deception
Wahidur Rahman, 46, of Eustace Street, Oldham, was handed a suspended six-month sentence after earlier pleading guilty to conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and commit fraud.