Author: CHRISTIAN GYSIN FOR THE DAILY MAIL
A Home Office worker at the centre of a £6m conspiracy allowing hundreds of illegal immigrants to stay in the country was yesterday jailed for 11 years.
Shamsu Iqbal, 61, was the ‘lynchpin’ of a gang which exploited his ‘trusted’ position to falsify records so at least 437 people could remain in the country.
The jail term is the longest ever handed down by English courts for conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration, which carries a maximum 14-year sentence.
Home Office statisticians worked out the potential loss to the taxpayer would have been £58 million if all those involved had claimed benefits over the six years for which the scam ran.
Yesterday the four men involved in the conspiracy were sentenced to a combined total of 31 years by Judge Peter Gower QC at Croydon Crown Court.
Solicitor Sheikh Muhammad Usman, 45, was given seven years, legal case worker Mohammad Khawar Aftab Hussain, 49, was jailed for six years, and fellow case worker and solicitor’s receptionist Mohammad Ibrahim Ali, 48, was jailed for seven years.
Sentencing the four men, Judge Gower said: ‘These offences are particularly serious. They strike at the heart of our immigration system and undermine public confidence in that system.
‘You, Iqbal, perpetrated time and again a gross breach of the trust that is accorded to anyone whose job permits access to Home Office records.’
The judge commended Home Office anti-corruption unit investigators Mark Purser and Zoe Smith for their ‘hard work’ in bringing the case to court following a three-year investigation.
Home Office sources said the exact number of immigrants given ‘ghost’ identities by the gang 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 only £23,000 a year.