UK Press Association, June 3, 2009
An Indian illegal immigrant has been found guilty of masterminding the single biggest visa scam ever seen in Britain.
Rakhi Shahi, 31, was convicted of conspiracy to defraud, handling criminal property and immigration offences at Isleworth Crown Court.
Her husband and criminal accomplice, disgraced solicitor Jatinder Kumar Sharma, 44, pleaded guilty to his role in the conspiracy before the trial.
A third woman, Neelam Sharma, 38, who may also be Sharma’s wife, was convicted of handling some of the cash that poured into the business.
But the former teacher was cleared of conspiracy to defraud and immigration offences.
Jatinder Sharma and Shahi ran a fraud factory and hid behind a web of false identities and documentation. They created thousands of counterfeit documents including degree certificates, tax and wage forms, references and academic records.
The three, who lived together in Clarence Street, Southall, ran an immigration consultancy business known as Univisas. The enterprise was at the centre of a web of false colleges and corrupt employees of genuine institutions who provided bogus documents.
Police suspect more than a thousand people, the majority of whom came from the Indian sub-continent, used the business to cheat border controls.
The case included a barrage of criticism of officials at the UK Border Agency, Home Office and Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC).
It highlighted continuing fears that bogus colleges have been used as an illegal gateway into Britain for thousands.