They were,however, spared jail time
A gang of conmen, who set up bogus companies to help 900 immigrants stay illegally in Britain in what is being called its biggest ever fake visa scam, has been spared jail.
The group, through 53 businesses, laundered millions of pounds, including "Immigration4u" and "Mo's Spice Inn", reports The Telegraph.
It also made temporary transfers into clients' bank accounts.
They also created fake payslips and provided false information on around 900 applications for general and entrepreneur visas between 2008 and 2013.
Applicants for entrepreneur visas must show they have access to at least £50,000. Thus, their aim was to make the migrants look as if they were well-paid employees.
One of the gang's customers was working at a fast food restaurant, but his accounts showed he had a £50,000 salary.
The scam, described as "immigration fraud of industrial scale", and a "highly organized, sophisticated attack on the UK's immigration system", could have cost the taxpayers £16.6m, if left undiscovered.
Taxi driver Mohammed Jillur Rahman Khan, 43, Shaheda Roxsanna, 47, and married couple Mazharul Haque, 46, and Maksuda Begum, 45, were all convicted of conspiracy to defraud the Secretary of State and conspiracy to cheat the public revenue.
But after a judge decided to suspend their prison sentences, they walked free from Southwark Crown Court on Thursday.
Judge Martin Griffith said: "This case was part two of an immigration fraud of industrial scale.
"For many people who come to this country which must be for economic reasons, there is a time-table because there comes a time where you must prove that you have substantial income to stay in the country.
"Unfortunately the solution for some people is that they go to some services that prove income that just isn't there - they pay through the nose."
Some of the migrants in the UK on temporary visas paid the gang at least £700 in cash to help them remain in the UK.
When the Home Office identified a suspicious pattern in a series of points-based applications for Tier 1 general and entrepreneur visas in 2011, the fraud was exposed.
An investigation by Immigration Enforcement’s Criminal and Financial Investigation team was launched and HMRC called in to probe the validity of the companies and PAYE claims linked to them.
The group had worked alongside another gang of five who were sentenced last year.
The scam was led by London law student Abul Kalam Muhammad (known as AKM) Rezaul Karim, 42, who was given a 10-year jail sentence in his absence in November 2018.
Khan, of Goldsmith Road, Peckham, southeast London, was given a two-year prison sentence suspended for two years.
Roxsanna, of Felixstowe Road, Edmonton, north London, was given a 19-month prison sentence suspended for two years.
Haque and Begum, of Olive Road, Dartford, Kent, were handed prison sentences of 16 and 10 months respectively, suspended for two years.
Maryam Arnott, of the CPS, said: "This is believed to be the largest ever visa fraud that the CPS has dealt with, and it is staggering the lengths these individuals went to in order to exploit the UK's immigration system."
Dave Fairclough, from Immigration Enforcement's Criminal and Financial Investigation, added: "This was a highly organised, sophisticated attack on the UK's immigration system."
Alison Chipperton, Assistant Director of HMRC's Fraud Investigation Service, said: “These defendants willingly joined forces with an organised crime group to steal public money.
“HMRC worked closely with the Home Office to gather the strong evidence that has helped convict this group.
“Anyone with information on anyone committing this type of fraud should report it to HMRC online, or call our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”