A LAWYER and his wife have been jailed for running an immigration racket so lucrative they kept more than £250,000 in cash in a cupboard.
Vijay and Bhawna Sorthia, 35 and 31, of Langland Crescent, Stanmore, were convicted at Isleworth Crown Court on Tuesday of perpetuating the scam at his Migration Gurus business in High Street, Wealdstone.
The husband was an immigration advisor accredited by The Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner but was staying in the country illegally.
He was jailed today for 10 years and she was sentenced to 15 months' imprisonment.
UK Border Agency spokesman Adam Edwards said: “Mr Sorthia had dozens of clients who had applied to the Home Office for extensions to their visas, claiming to be ‘highly skilled migrants’. They were mainly Indian and most of them were already here.
“What the couple did was set up a number of cover companies with bank accounts registered in their own names which would provide clients with pay slips and wage payments to make it look like they were employed as things like IT specialists and earning much more than they actually were.
“People were paying a fee to them that was between £3,000 and £4,000 typically.”
Clients had sums deposited into their bank accounts to make it appear on bank statements that they earned a generous salary, then would transfer the money to a third party.
“When officers searched the Sorthia’s property they found approximately £330,000 in cash,” Mr Edwards said. Most of that money, £270,000, was in a holdall in the back of a cupboard but other bundles of money were also discovered, which had clients’ numbers and names on them.”
The husband was arrested in May 2010 and when his wife was arrested a month later, she claimed she was simply the company’s cleaner.
The couple skipped police bail to India before they were due to report to Harrow Police Station in September 2010 and were arrested on their return to the UK last September.
Vijay Sorthia was convicted of obtaining or seeking to obtain leave to enter UK by deception on or before October 24, 2004, conspiracy to defraud between April 1, 2008 and September 30, 2010, possession of £332,000 of criminal property, removing criminal property from England and Wales and possessing articles for use in fraud.
Bhawna Sorthia was convicted of being concerned in an arrangement to facilitate the acquisition retention use or control of criminal property by Vijay Sorthia and others before September 30 2010, removing criminal property from England and Wales and possessing articles for use in fraud.
She was acquitted of fraud by false representation.
They were due to be sentenced yesterday (Wednesday) at the crown court.
The UK Border Agency had previously identified and separately prosecuted 15 of Migration Guru’s clients who benefited from the scam and were each sentenced to between eight and 10 months in prison.