LONDON: Three British Sikhs have been jailed for a total of 19 years for helping about 70 illegal Afghan immigrants sneak into the UK by misusing passports in a 600,000 pounds scam.
Cousins Daljit Kapoor and Harmit Kapoor, and Davinder Chawla, all three in their 40s, had admitted conspiring to help foreigners get into the country illegally and were sentenced last week at Inner London Crown Court.
"The whole system of immigration is completely undermined. It was a large scale operation and was for financial gain," Judge Nigel Seed told them.
Daljit was jailed for seven years, Harmit for four and a half years and Chawla, a member of the same extended family, for seven and a half years.
The gang was paid more than 9,000 pounds for each family they got into the UK, smuggling nearly 70 people into the country in the estimated 620,000 pound-scam.
They travelled to France and handed over passports to waiting immigrants and then collected them once they safely got within the UK territory.
Once the immigrants got into the UK, the gang would recycle the passports passing them on to others trying to sneak into the country.
All the passports shown by the Afghans had photos of Sikhs wearing their turbans and border staff failed to spot the difference.
In total, 69 individuals who travelled to the UK on the passports were identified and 59 did not make an asylum application.
"The central aim was to gain financially. At least one of the conspirators with a passport would travel to France to enable to asylum seeker to travel to the UK using this passport," Prosecutor Alexandra Felix told the court.
"These were passports with identities belonging to their families or others which were reported lost or stolen in the days before their use. The result of the conspiracy was there was entry into the UK that must have been in breach of immigration law," Felix said.
The Kapoors and Chawla were caught when airline staff noticed the passports handed over at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport did not match the people carrying them.
The three men were trying to get 11 passengers to Luton airport using British and fake Norwegian passports on an Easyjet flight.