THE head of a college which offered non-existent courses and assisted visa applications for bogus foreign students has been jailed along with two of his staff.
Hayes man Waqar Bhatti, of Avondale Drive, plus Sohail Akhtar and his sister Noasheen Muhammed, both of Vicarage Farm Road, Hounslow, were jailed for 22 years between them for the scam, following a three-month trial at Harrow Crown Court which concluded last week.
Bhatti, 36, set up Middlesex College in 2004, and employed Akhtar, 42, and Muhammed, 36, to run it.
The college was based in Clayton Road, Hayes, but moved to premises just off Oxford Street, in central London, in 2005.
It claimed to offer a wide range of courses, from fashion and business to computing and law, at undergraduate and post-graduate level, and it was stated that some were being run on behalf of genuine universities.
In reality, there were only a small number of courses in basic English, and it was a front for conning both genuine students who wished to study in the UK, and the authorities into granting visas for international students.
Bhatti and Akhtar were arrested at their homes by UK Border Agency (UKBA) officers in February 2009.
Officers raided the college, seizing hundreds of documents, and discovered the trio had printed the signatures of genuine former members of staff on bogus qualification certificates and enrolment forms to add a veneer of respectability.
There were four small rooms for teaching, despite the college claiming to have around a thousand students enrolled.
All three were found guilty of conspiring to facilitate a breach of immigration law.
On Tuesday, March 26, Bhatti and Akhtar were each jailed for nine years. Muhammed was sentenced to four years.
Rob Allen, from UKBA’s London Criminal and Financial Investigation team, said: “This was an extremely long and complex investigation into three individuals who spent years conning both legitimate students and the authorities.
“Their operation was a sham, but virtually everything they did was with the aim of adding credibility to it and they were happy to fraudulently use the names of other people and institutions to do that.”
The trio could be deported after they have served their time, and Proceeds of Crime Act proceedings are under way in a bid to seize the profits made from the scam.