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Three jailed over immigration scam

A Hounslow man was jailed on 14 September for 10 years for masterminding a major immigration scam, following an investigation by the UK Border Agency's West London immigration crime team.

42-year-old Indian national Kaseepathi Koka of Livingstone Road, Hounslow had earlier admitted charges of fraud, money laundering, conspiring to pervert the course of justice and illegally providing immigration advice during a hearing at Isleworth Crown Court.

His 39-year-old wife, Ajitha, admitted conspiring to pervert the course of justice, and was given a 9 month sentence.

A third defendant, Tirunagaraja Prasad Thalla, 32, also of Livingstone Road, admitted a money laundering offence and was jailed for 9 months.

Action will be taken to deport all 3 of them at the end of their sentences.

The Kokas were involved in setting up a number of bogus companies for which the main purpose was to allow immigrants to extend their visas.

The companies would supply wage slips and transfer temporary 'incomes' to applicants' bank accounts to make it look like they had highly-skilled and well-paid jobs when they applied for a visa extension. The money would subsequently be paid back through bank accounts run by Thalla.

Kaseepathi Koka also supplied forged bank statements and would complete immigration applications on behalf of his clients, despite not being qualified or registered to do so.

The trio were thought to be making approximately £250,000 per year from the scam.

In all, it is thought the gang assisted around 100 immigrants to stay in the country. Those individuals now face removal from the UK.

Robert Coxhead, the senior Investigating officer on the West London immigration crime team, said:

'This was a sophisticated criminal enterprise, which had the explicit aim of helping those who had no right to be in the UK evade immigration controls.

'The sentences handed down today show just how seriously the courts take such offences.

'As this case shows, illegal immigration can be big business. But I hope this sends out a message that we are committed to tackling the criminal groups behind it, putting the ringleaders before the courts, and, ultimately, behind bars.

'We will also now begin confiscation hearings to ensure that, as well as spending time in prison, they won't benefit financially from their criminality.'

Three other men who were involved in the scam had previously pleaded guilty to fraud charges at a hearing in June. They were all jailed and subsequently deported back to India.

Damian Green, Minister for Immigration, said:

'At home and abroad, we are tackling highly organised crime groups who make their living by trying to exploit the immigration system and breach our border security.

'Some of these hide people in lorries in an attempt to cross our borders illegally; some provide them with fake identity documents; others set up bogus colleges or arrange sham marriages. Worst of all – some force women and children to work against their will in the sex industry.

This month, the UK Border Agency is carrying out an intense period of activity to go after these organised crime groups to put the ringleaders before the courts and shut off the supply of illegal immigrants at its source.'