Author: ABUL TAHER FOR THE MAIL ON SUNDAY
Two uncles of new Home Secretary Sajid Javid have been accused of running a ‘cash for visas’ scam targeting migrants who wanted to get into Britain.
His relatives are alleged to have conned people in Pakistan out of money after promising to obtain documents which did not materialise.
One of the uncles is also understood to have offered to help Pakistanis enter Britain by arranging marriages for cash.
Last night, those who handed over money for visas told The Mail on Sunday they had not received the documents – with one saying he was given fake papers instead.
The allegations could be embarrassing for Mr Javid, who was last week appointed Home Secretary with the task of sorting out the Government’s tangled immigration policy, after Amber Rudd was forced to resign over the Windrush scandal.
The alleged racket was run by Abdul Majeed, who lived in Pakistan until his death seven years ago, and brother Khalid Abdul Hamid, 69, who now lives in Bristol.
Mr Hamid last night said a ‘few’ student visas has been successfully arranged – but denied claims of a scam as ‘lies’ designed to target Mr Javid.
According to some residents in the village of Lasoori in north-eastern Pakistan, where Mr Javid’s family still own a home, the two men had been arranging visas for would-be migrants since the 1990s. And in 2006, Mr Majeed set up a company called UK Study, based in nearby Rajana.
The Mail on Sunday has been told that, as well as offering English lessons, the firm helped students wishing to travel to Britain and other European countries to get visas.
On one occasion it is alleged that Mr Majeed said he could help people get to Britain by arranging marriages in the UK.
This newspaper spoke to three people who claim they handed over money to Mr Hamid but never received the paperwork they paid for. Retired farmer Muktar Masih, 70, who lives in Lasoori, said he sold his prized tractor to pay the £160 fee but was given documents he was later told were forgeries.
He said: ‘I was told I would be sent to England for better work opportunities, and was duped into paying around 25,000 rupees [£160].
‘I was told I could pay the rest of the visa money once I arrived in England. I was then given some visa documents, but everybody I showed it to said the papers were fake. So I never went abroad.’
Retired schoolteacher Abdul Hameed Qasir, 78, said he paid £1,270 in 2006 in the hope of coming to Britain, but no visa materialised.
He said: ‘I was promised a visa and gave the money but I got no visa in the end and no money back. I was angry.’
Businessman Shahid Iqbal, 42, who lives in the Pakistani capital Islamabad, said: ‘Hamid and Majeed spoke excellent English and many students used to go to them to study English.
‘I was so angry. I realised I’d lost my cash’
Businessman Shahid Iqbal, 42, who lives in Pakistan capital Islamabad, said: ‘Hamid and Majeed spoke excellent English and many students used to go to them to study English.
‘Hamid said he had sent some people to England for work and could also send me if I gave him money.
‘I paid him £320 but he never sent me abroad. He never gave me any receipt or any other document. When I realised I had lost the money, I was very angry.’
Shahid Iqbal, 42, from Islamabad
‘Hamid said he had sent some people to England for work and could also send me if I gave him money. I paid him £320 but he never sent me abroad. He never gave me any receipt or any other document. When I realised I had lost the money, I was very angry. We are poor people.’
‘I gave £1,200 but was left with nothing’
Retired schoolteacher Abdul Hameed Qasir, 78, who lives in a village near Lasoori, said he paid over £1,200 in 2006 in the hope of coming to Britain but no visa materialised.
‘I was promised a visa and gave the money but I got no visa in the end and no money back. I was angry. I gave Hamid around 200,000 rupees [£1,270] and then he vanished.
At that time his brother Majeed died and I lost contact with the family. Nobody arranged my visit to England or returned my money.’
Abdul Hameed Qasir, 78, from near Lasoori
Saifur Rahman, who comes from Rajana and now lives in Bristol, said he had once visited the brothers’ office in Pakistan where Mr Majeed told him: ‘We are arranging marriage in the UK.’
The claims were backed up by Haji Tahir, vice-chairman of Lasoori Union Council, the equivalent of a local council leader, who said he had received complaints against Mr Hamid and Mr Majeed.
He said: ‘People in the area told me that they felt cheated. They said it was a so-called immigration network which has taken money from several people by telling them that they will be sent abroad.’
Mr Hamid last night confirmed that his brother Mr Majeed had run a business arranging student visas. He said that at times he had helped his brother – but he strenuously denied any wrongdoing , adding: ‘I never heard my brother cheating anyone.’
He claimed that the allegations were an attempt to smear Mr Javid. He said: ‘It’s absolutely lies, because they are saying it against my nephew, it’s all rubbish, I don’t believe it, they are telling lies.’
Mr Hamid added: ‘My brother ran the business from Rajana and Lahore, helping with student visas’ – adding that he occasionally worked with him, too.
When asked how many ‘students’ he helped to send to the UK and other countries, Mr Hamid said that it was just a ‘few,’ adding that his brother closed the business down about two years before his death.
Mr Hamid added that he once worked at the British consulate in Mirpur in Pakistan and moved to the UK after marrying a British woman he met there.
A spokeswoman for Mr Javid said last night he knew ‘absolutely nothing’ about the claims concerning his uncles.
Asked if Mr Javid knew they ran an immigration business, and if so, whether he had informed Mrs May on being appointed Home Secretary, the spokeswoman declined to elaborate. She said Mr Javid’s earlier denial ‘covers it’.
Theresa May introduced a tough student visa regime when she was Home Secretary as she believed ‘too many’ overseas students were illegally overstaying once their courses finished.
The Government has repeatedly tightened the rules, although Mrs May’s tough stance is a source of Cabinet tension.
She has resisted pressure from fellow Ministers including Boris Johnson to remove them from official immigration statistics.
Mr Javid was appointed Home Secretary on Monday after Amber Rudd was forced to resign after unintentionally misleading MPs over deportation targets.
In his first Commons speech in his new post, Mr Javid disowned the Government’s controversial ‘hostile environment’ approach to illegal immigrants – but vowed to continue efforts to curb numbers.
Sympathising with those hit by the Windrush scandal, he said: ‘Like the Caribbean Windrush generation, my parents came to this country from the Commonwealth in the 1960s. They too came to help rebuild this country.
‘When I heard that people who are outstanding pillars of their community were being impacted simply for not having the right documents to prove their legal status in the UK, I thought it could be my mum, my brother, my uncle – even me.’