Indian-origin Brit officer conned migrants to pay off debts

London: A 31-year-old Indian-origin UK Border Agency officer has admitted using inside information and her lover to con vulnerable migrants out of GBP 113,000 to pay her massive gambling debts, according to a media report.

31-year-old Anjali Patel of Croydon in South London, conned immigrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Colombia nearing the end of their visas or facing deportation into handing over cash to her law student boy friend Abdul Farooq (28), a report in the Evening Standard said.

Patel, who took voluntary redundancy in August 2011, is alleged to have deliberately abused her position of trust by passing data to Farooq between 2010 and 2012.

The Indian-origin civil servant has admitted using her inside information to swindle vulnerable migrants out of GBP 113,000 to pay off her "massive gambling debts".

Patel, an executive officer with the Case Resolution Directorate, used confidential information to help Farooq convince the migrants that he was a qualified lawyer.

Croydon crown court heard that investigators discovered an image on Patel's phone of Farooq illegally giving immigration advice at a hotel.

Prosecutor Karen Robinson said the couple worked the scam in 2010 and 2011 when Patel moved to the Parole Board, where she was later arrested.

Officers found evidence that Patel had large gambling losses and owed money to payday loan companies.

Farooq was studying law at Brunel University here and had no obvious income, despite thousands of pounds pouring into his five bank accounts and gambling losses of GBP 12,000.

"Despite not having a law degree Farooq held himself out to be a solicitor or someone qualified to give immigration advice," Robinson said.

"He persuaded vulnerable individuals to part with substantial amounts of money in the hope he could assist them stay in this country. Patel assisted him by the unlawful access of database and document files, personal data and other sensitive information.

"The information she provided enabled Farooq to tailor advice to applicants and she gave advice to Farooq on how to subvert the application process."

Bangladesh-born Mamunmar Rahman gave Farooq GBP 12,950 cash to help him secure a five-year work visa, which would eventually give him and his wife and child the right to apply for permanent residency.

Their meetings took place in a Croydon hotel and Farooq always insisted on cash payments, but the visa Rahman wanted never materialised.

Failed Colombian asylum-seeker Maria Garcia-Zuniga was working illegally as a cleaner and had spent more than a decade in the UK when she paid Farooq GBP 2,000 cash to "regularise" her status.

"He told her that he was her solicitor and she did not need anyone else to help her with her immigration problems," Robinson said.

When no visas were forthcoming she reported about Farooq to police.

Patel admitted two counts of conspiring to commit misconduct in public office between January 2010 and October 2011.

Other charges of laundering GBP 48,850 and GBP 24,330 in criminal property were dropped by the prosecution.

Farooq, also of Croydon, had already pleaded guilty to the same two conspiracy counts, plus two charges of unlawfully providing immigration services while unqualified.

They will both be sentenced on February 20 but Judge Nicholas Ainley indicated any prison sentence will be suspended.

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