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Barrister behind bogus student visa scam sentenced to 8 years

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A corrupt barrister who earned millions of pounds running a bogus college and immigration advisory firm in London was jailed for eight and a half years yesterday.

Syed Ahmed, 36, of Havelock Terrace, Sunderland was one of five people involved in the scam.

The other members of the gang included two 30-year-old Chinese nationals, Ahmed's wife Junjie Kao and Wie Xing, and 35-year-old Bangladeshi twin brothers Khaled and Tareq Mahmud, who were previously jailed for a total of 25 years for conspiring to assist unlawful immigration at Croydon Crown Court in January 2010.

At the heart of the gang's conspiracy was Thames College London, which purported to offer genuine courses of education from premises in Whitechapel, but in fact offered none. It was run day-to-day by the Mahmud brothers, but Ahmed was listed as a lecturer in law.

The gang provided fake documents and certificates through the college, which were then used to support student visa applications to the Home Office.

Those applications were processed by a company called Virgil Legal Services Ltd, for which Ahmed was the accredited legal adviser. The firm, based on Shaftesbury Avenue, claimed to provide advice to students from China and the Far East who wanted to apply for or extend visas. It advertised its' services in Chinese newspapers.

The whole operation netted the gang millions of pounds. Shortly after their arrest, around £3m in cash was discovered by UKBA officers stuffed into boxes and suitcases underneath a bed in the flat Ahmed shared with Kao and Xing in Lower Road, Rotherhithe, south east London.

Hugh Ind, regional director, London and South East, UK Border Agency said:

"As this case shows, illegal immigration can be big business.

"This investigation and conviction demonstrates our determination to tackle those who commit organised immigration crime and bring the perpetrators to justice.

"We will continue to work with the police and other law enforcement partners to identify criminal activity and stamp out any abuses of the system."

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