It takes a nation to protect the nation
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Shamsu Iqbal, 61, was the lynchpin of a gang which exploited his ‘trusted’ position to falsify records for at least 437 people
A Home Office official was at the centre of a £6million conspiracy which allowed hundreds of illegal immigrants into the country.
Shamsu Iqbal, 61, was the lynchpin of a gang which exploited his ‘trusted’ position to falsify records for at least 437 people.
Yesterday all four men involved in the scam were found guilty following a trial and will now be sentenced at a hearing next week.
They face a maximum sentence of 14 years in jail.
The potential loss to the taxpayer was assessed by Home Office statisticians as £56million, based on the amount the 437 illegal immigrants could have falsely claimed in benefits over the six years of the fraud.
However, exactly how many immigrants were given ‘ghost’ identities may never be known.
The conspiracy netted the gang themselves more than £6.18million, with much of the money spirited back to Pakistan, Bangladesh and Dubai, where the criminals have strong links.
When ringleader Iqbal was arrested investigators found bank accounts containing more than £1million in cash.
His job at the Home Office would have earned him around £23,000 a year.
Iqbal and his three co-conspirators would split the £14,000 fee they charged to the illegal immigrants they helped.
Prosecutors explained how Iqbal would access Home Office records of migrants who had been granted the right to stay in Britain and swap them for details of imposters.
Investigators with the Home Office’s Anti-Corruption Unit spent three years identifying at least 437 cases of documents being faked.
The ‘ghost’ imposter would get a new identity of a real migrant who had been given either ‘leave to remain’ or ‘no time limit’ status to stay in Britain.
A senior Home Office source told the Mail: ‘The bottom line is that we may never know the true number of people this gang helped stay in the country.
'There could be literally hundreds more on their books that we simply haven’t found.
'Some of those given new identities could even be potential terrorists. Many of them have simply melted away meaning we will never trace them.’
Iqbal’s co-accused were Sheikh Muhammad Usman, 45, legal case worker Mohammad Khawar Aftab Hussain, 49, and worker Mohammad Ibrahim Ali, 48.
Usman is a qualified lawyer of Pakistani origin who worked at a number of firms in London. British citizen Hussain, who was born in Pakistan, and Ali, who came to Britain from Bangladesh aged 12, both worked at solicitors’ practices in London.
Croydon Crown Court heard the gang were caught out when they tried to alter the details of a legal migrant from Ghana who had been jailed for robbery and was liable for deportation. Pictured: Mohammad Ibrahim Ali arrives at Croydon Crown Court
This enabled them to ‘engage in the criminality’ as they would facilitate correspondence with the Home Office on behalf of the ‘impostors’ to help ‘straighten out’ their immigration status, the trial heard.
Iqbal had his own secure log-on to a Home Office system which records details of individual cases and applications to remain in the country.
Croydon Crown Court heard the gang were caught out when they tried to alter the details of a legal migrant from Ghana who had been jailed for robbery and was liable for deportation.
Iqbal, from Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, Usman, from Wandsworth, South London, Hussain from Colliers Wood, South London, and Ali, from Ilford, Essex, all denied 13 charges of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration spanning from January 2010 to April 2016.
It's like asking a thief to guard the bank vault.