Five fraudsters in the UK who falsely claimed £13 million in tax repayments, and facilitated around 900 bogus visa applications, have been sentenced to a total of more than 31 years in jail on Friday (23).
London law student Abul Kalam Muhammad (known as AKM) Rezaul Karim (42), was the ringleader in the organised crime group. He and his four accomplices set up 79 bogus companies and created fake documentation which were used by Bangladeshi nationals in fraudulent visa applications.
They also used these companies to attempt to fraudulently reclaim £13 million in tax repayments from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) over a six-year period. The immigration fraud was uncovered in 2011 when the Home Office identified a suspicious pattern in a series of points-based applications for tier one general and entrepreneur visas.
Both routes had a significant financial requirement, with applicants earning points based either on previous earnings or by demonstrating they had access to a minimum of £50,000 to invest in UK business. Caseworkers noticed that several applications were being submitted using slight variations on the same company names.
An investigation by Immigration Enforcement’s Criminal and Financial Investigation (CFI) team was launched and HMRC called in to probe the validity of the companies and PAYE claims linked to them.
The gang claimed their clients were employees as part of their tax and immigration fraud. They created fake payslips and provided false information on around 900 visa applications to ensure eligibility for a tier one visa. At the time of the offences, tier one (general) and tier 2 (entrepreneur) visas were both potential paths to obtaining a settlement in the UK.
They transferred money into clients’ bank accounts to make them appear, well-paid employees, with one client, a worker at a fast food restaurant, able to claim annual earnings of almost £60,000. The money was paid back to the advisor the following month and, between 2008 and 2013, millions were laundered through the bank accounts.
Officers found that Karim, his brother-in-law Enamul Karim (34), Kazi Borkot Ullah (39), accountant Jalpa Trivedi (41), and Mohammed Tamij Uddin (47), charged some clients on temporary visas wanting to remain in the UK a minimum of £700 in cash for their fraudulent immigration services.
Trivedi, an ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) qualified accountant, enabled the fraud to happen by providing official letters certifying the amounts the visa applicants had supposedly invested in their businesses.
Karim and his accomplices were arrested on February 26, 2013. They were found guilty on November 16, 2018, after a trial that lasted 35 weeks at Southwark Crown Court. AKM Karim, Enamul Karim and Ullah, absconded in July 2018 during the trial.
Richard Las, Deputy Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said, “AKM Karim was the driving force in this fraud, having his organised crime group create false payslips to steal public money and deprive the UK of funding needed for its vital public services. The money evaded is the equivalent to the starting salary of 494 new nurses in London for a year.”
The defendants were sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on Friday (23). AKM Karim, Enamul Karim and Ullah, were sentenced in their absence and warrants have been issued for their arrests.
AKM Karim got 10 years and six months, Enamul Karim nine years and four months and Ullah five years and ten months. Trivedi was handed a three-year jail sentence, and Uddin two years and six months.