A Stanmore man, convicted of running an immigration scam with his wife, has been ordered to repay proceeds of crime totalling nearly £800,000.
Indian national Vijay Sorthia, aged 36, is currently serving a 10 year prison sentence having been found guilty of fraud offences in April 2012.
Sorthia, who was an accredited immigration advisor, used the firm Migration Gurus based on High Street, Wealdstone, as a front to help people to stay in the UK illegally.
Officers from the Home Office’s West London criminal and financial investigation team found £333,000 in cash hidden at Sorthia’s home address in Langland Crescent, Stanmore, after arresting him there in May 2010.
Most of it was hidden in a holdall at the back of a cupboard, but other bundles of notes were also discovered with client names and numbers on. The cash was seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA).
Vijay’s wife Bhawna Sorthia, aged 32, who claimed to be employed as a cleaner by Migration Gurus, was arrested 1 month later and sentenced to 15 months alongside her husband at Isleworth Crown Court in May 2012.
The confiscation procedure was led by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA). On Monday 9 September Isleworth Crown Court granted a Confiscation Order for £799,000. The £333,000 cash seized from Sorthia’s home will go towards that, but if the outstanding amount is not paid within the next 6 months Vijay Sorthia will serve an additional 3.5 years in prison on top of his current 10 year prison term.
During the initial investigation it was found that an additional £467,000 had been sent to India. Vijay Sorthia will serve a further 3.5 years in prison on top of his sentence unless this money is returned. Any further monies the Sorthias come into can be taken from them until the criminal benefit figure of between £800,000 to £900,000 is reached.
Mark Rickard, West London, criminal and financial Investigation team, Home Office said:
‘I am delighted that the court has ordered the Sorthias to pay back this money, obtained through criminal activity which abused our immigration laws. It is a warning to others: you will be pursued through the courts and deprived of your criminal profits.
‘The UK is now at the forefront of the world-wide crackdown on criminal finances recovering over £1billion since the Proceeds of Crime Act was introduced.’
Simon Jennings, SOCA Branch Commander, said:
‘Through this confiscation we have been able to deprive the Sorthias of a significant amount of cash. Money is at the heart of all organised crime and is the motivation for most criminals, so we are determined to make sure they can’t enjoy their profits and the lifestyle that may bring.’
From October SOCA officers will transfer into the new National Crime Agency (NCA), which will lead the UK’s fight to cut serious and organised crime.
In actual fact the couple were using dozens of ‘cover’ companies, with bank accounts registered in the names of Sorthia and his wife, to provide clients with payslips and wage payments to make it look like they were employed and earning much more than they actually were.
These would then be used to aid immigration applications to the Home Office.
Fifteen clients who benefitted from the Sorthia scam have already been convicted and sentenced to between 8 and 10 months in prison. Fourteen of these have already been removed from the UK.
The West London immigration crime team is a specialist unit of seconded officers from the Metropolitan Police working alongside warranted Home Office immigration enforcement officers to investigate organised immigration crime.