College principal from Plaistow ‘involved in fake exam results visa fraud’, court hears
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A college principal and the director of an immigration advisory centre helped hundreds of foreign students apply fraudulently for visa extensions by faking English language exam results, a court has heard.
Wahida Sultana, 39, of London Road, Plaistow, and Hemant Kumar, 40, of Knowsley Avenue in Southall, Middlesex, were allegedly involved in a plot that saw some people desperate to extend their visas charged almost £4,000 for the bogus paperwork, Southwark Crown Court was told.
Prosecutor Martyn Bowyer claimed that Sultana, the principal and chief operating officer of Eden College International in Mile End, and Kumar, the director of immigration service Studentway Educational in Southall, would have known what was going on.
He said: “The prosecution case is very simple - abuses on this scale simply could not have occurred without both their knowledge and their connivance.”
The conspiracy was uncovered after a 2013 investigation by the BBC’s Panorama programme in which journalists posed as students wanting to make use of the services on offer.
The court heard that a reporter posing as a student was told at Studentway that he could extend his stay in the UK fraudulently.
It would cost £150 to sit an English exam legitimately, but for £500 the gang could arrange a “guaranteed pass”.
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Certificates confirming background academic achievement were charged at £250 - when they are actually free.
The court heard that another Panorama reporter paid £450 for one test to be taken by someone else, while during a second exam, footage shows the answers to multiple choice questions openly being read out by an invigilator.
Mr Bowyer said the scam involved “blatant and flagrant breaches” of guidelines designed to ensure immigration processes are carried out properly.
He said: “At the time with which we are concerned, Wahida Sultana was in charge of Eden College and, we suggest, could simply not have been unaware of what was going on under her very nose.”
Jurors were told that four people were found guilty during a trial last year. Another had already pleaded guilty, while four others fled the country before they could be brought before the courts.
Both Sultana and Kumar deny conspiracy to facilitate the commission of breaches of immigration law.
The trial continues.