Christian Gysin and David Churchill, Daily Mail, January 14 2018
A gang including a Home Office worker masterminded a conspiracy to allow illegal immigrants to stay in the country, a court has heard.
Shamsu Iqbal was allegedly the lynchpin of the group that used his ‘trusted’ Home Office position to falsify documents — with investigators identifying 437 potential cases over five years.
The 61-year-old changed the records of migrants who had permission to stay in the UK, giving their identities to people who were in Britain illegally, jurors heard.
Iqbal’s co-accused — lawyers Sheikh Muhammad Usman, 45, Mohammad Khawar Aftab Hussain, 49, and Mohammad Ibrahim Ali, 47 — would then allegedly contact the Home Office to ‘straighten out’ the status of ‘impostors’ who had taken on another identity.
Alexandra Felix, prosecuting, told Croydon Crown Court: ‘The result would be the impostor would end up with documents in their own names which enable them to be in the UK should they ever be challenged when they were not properly entitled to be here.
‘This case is about these defendants engaging in conduct as part of an agreement which enables people who are not entitled to be in the UK to stay in the UK. Mr Iqbal is the lynchpin. It is his ability to access Home Office records that really enabled it.’
The court heard Iqbal had a secure log-on to a Home Office system known as the Case Information Database, which holds details of applications to remain in the UK.
Investigators found he had been ‘looking at data he should not have been looking at’ while allegedly changing details and issuing documents that could allow people in Britain illegally to remain.
Jurors were told one man, Azad Passa, came to Britain as a child in 1989 before being granted citizenship in 2005. It is alleged his Home Office record was manipulated to submit a fake request for a Biometric Residence Permit identity card — so that it could then be issued to another man, Gufranur Rahaman, who was in the UK on a time-limited student visa.
The court was told that, in the fake application, the address given to the Home Office for Mr Passa was linked to Usman, who represented Mr Rahaman.
Miss Felix said: ‘Mr Usman was acting for and assisting in facilitating Mr Rahaman remaining in the UK, disguising himself as Mr Passa. This was not coincidence or a mistake. These were deliberate acts.
‘Iqbal and Usman, clearly by their actions, were engaged with Rahaman to pass him off as Mr Passa. They wanted to legitimise and regularise him to enable him to stay in the UK when he was not entitled to do so.’
The court was also told of Ghanaian national Kofi Norman, who had entered the UK in 1996 and was granted indefinite leave to remain. It is claimed that, in March 2014, Iqbal logged that Mr Norman had called the Home Office to request a Biometric Residence Permit.
Sheikh Muhammad Usman (left), 45, and Mohammad Ibrahim Ali, 47, arrive at Croydon Crown Court accused of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration
However, Mr Norman had been jailed for five years for robbery in 2000 and was liable for deportation. Miss Felix told the court the plot, also allegedly involving Hussain, was to allow another man, Nurul Islam, to remain in the country when he was not entitled to do so.
She told the court: ‘The Crown says that what we have here demonstrates that Iqbal, Hussain and the impostor were heavily involved in claiming the identity of Kofi Norman.’
The court heard that by February 2016, Home Office investigators had identified 437 potential cases, but these were narrowed down to more than 20 for the ten-week trial, which opened on Thursday, because there was not time to investigate them all.
Iqbal, an administrator working for the asylum workload and administration team, was suspended in May 2015 and sacked in October. Iqbal, Usman, Hussain and Ali had each other’s numbers saved on their mobile phones and data shows they corresponded with one another.
Miss Felix said money went in and out of an account of a south London restaurant in which Iqbal had a business interest, even though the restaurant was shut at the time.
Iqbal, from Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, Usman, from Wandsworth, south London, Hussain from Colliers Wood, south-west London, and Ali, from Ilford, Essex, all deny charges of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.
Ali also faces a count of unlawful possession of two British and 11 Bangladeshi passports relating to someone else, which he also denies. The trial continues.