A fraudster made over half a million pounds by duping the Home Office into allowing 188 migrants into the UK illegally.
Shopkeeper Malkeet Rathod was jailed for nine years today after a judge said the five-year deception undermined the trust in the immigration system.
Rathod, 48, owner of Featherstone Convenience Store, charged people up to £4,000 a time to act as their sponsor to gain them entry from India posing as religious workers in the Sikh community.
Many of those who gained entry to the country arrived to find no work available for them when they arrived.
Some ended up working on building sites or were left destitute, relying on others for food.
Rathod was found guilty of fraud by false representation and five charges of money laundering following a trial lasting more than 11 weeks at Leeds Crown Court.
Sentencing Rathod, Judge Christopher Batty said: “This was fraud that goes to the very heart of the immigration system in this country.
“The sponsorship system is based on trust. Conduct of people like you undermines the confidence the public has in that system.
“It raises suspicion against those who have come to this country legitimately and those who provide a genuine service to citizens of this country.
“Those who were not entitled to come to this country utilised public services which they would not have been entitled to.”
Rathod came to the UK in 1999 as a “religious migrant”.
He then made a successful application for indefinite leave to remain as a member of a religious order, becoming a naturalised UK citizen in 2007.
Judge Batty said: “You had seen through your own experience how the immigration system, and particularly the sponsorship system for religious work, operated.”
Rathod set himself up as a sponsor for people entering the country pretending to be religious workers.
He initially brought his parents to the UK in 2006.
The judge said: “It is clear from that time that you saw an opportunity to do this on a much larger scale involving a large number of migrants, sensing as you did the rich rewards you could reap from it.”
Rathod then set up two charities, The Guru Nanak Mission UK and The Sri Guru Nanak Jot Parkash Sikh Society.
He charged large sums of money to Indian nationals to get them into the UK.
A total off 188 migrants entered the country illegally under Rathod’s deception, between 2008 and 2013.
The jury heard when police and immigration officials carried out a dawn raid at his business premises on Featherstone Lane they found £26,000 in cash in a brief case.
Banking records showed £594,000 had passed through his account or those of his wife and sister-in-law.
At another property in Old Lane, Birkenshaw, stamps were found which had been used to give authenticity to bogus documents, including one from New Delhi Airport, a solicitor’s office and educational establishments which did not exist.
He had computers installed with programmes which could incorporate logos for the Home Office and Barclays Bank.
Rathod’s wife, Manpreet, 44, was convicted of money laundering and given a six-month sentence, suspended for 18 months, plus 100 hours unpaid work.
Her sister-in-law Saroj Kaur, 44, of King George Avenue, Coventry, was convicted of two offences of money laundering.
She was given four months, suspended for 18 months, with 100 hours unpaid work.