The star by Polly Rippon
FOUR ‘greedy and cynical’ members of the same family, who were convicted of running a nationwide scam which allowed immigrants to apply for UK passports under false pretences, have been sent to jail.
Liban Mohammed Yousif, aged 34, of Holywell Heights, Brightside, his brother Abdirashid Yusuf, 37, of Norwood Drive, Norwood, Mubarak Yusuf, 28, also of Holywell Heights, and their cousin Mustafa Yassin, 29, of Headford Grove, Broomhall, were jailed for a total of 10 years and nine months.
A jury found them guilty of sitting government citizenship tests on behalf of immigrants from all over the country in exchange for cash.
Sentencing them at Sheffield Crown Court, Judge Michael Murphy QC said: “These offences expose the UK passport system to attack. That was not your aim but it was a consequence of what you did.”
Immigrants who passed the Life in the UK exam, which tested knowledge of the English language and culture, could apply for UK passports.
The court heard Yousif, Yusuf and Yassin, all originally from Somalia, were directors of the City Wide Learning Centre on Broomhall Street, Broomhall, which was designated a test centre by Sheffield’s University for Industry on behalf of the Government.
Between October 2005 and February 2007 they charged thousands of immigrants hundreds of pounds, pocketed the cash then sat the tests on their behalf and issued them with pass certificates.
They used ‘middle men’ Mehmet Ince, 37, from London, Halil Dari, 35, of Gleadless, Sheptim Ymeri, 37, from London and Mohammad Jafari, 36, of Birmingham, to find them customers from Turkish and Afghan, Yugoslavian and Albanian communities.
The scam was uncovered in 2007 when it was noticed the pass rate in Sheffield for first time applicants was 88 per cent – compared with the national average of 66 per cent.
Ince took money from members of London’s Turkish community in exchange for pass certificates from CWL and was given a two-and-a-half year sentence.
The judge said he had lined his pockets at the expense of ‘desperate people’.
“Your part was to milk the system for whatever you could get. You exploited Turkish people. Many had arrived on, or under lorries. They were given leave to remain permanently so they were genuine refugees who wanted to become citizens and were prepared to pay very large sums of money.”
Dari, of Gleadless Common, Gleadless, was found guilty of recruiting 12 immigrants and will be sentenced at a later date. Ymeri pleaded guilty to recruiting southern Yugoslavians and Albanians in London.
He was given an eight month suspended jail term, suspended for a year and 200 hours’ unpaid community work.
Jafari who admitted recruiting one immigrant in Birmingham was given a six month suspended jail term and 200 hours’ unpaid community work.
The CWL staff, who were all of previous good character, were well-respected members of Sheffield’s Somali community well known for their charity work and raised money to build hospitals and bridges in Somaliland.
But Judge Murphy said they had thrown away their good reputations by their greed.
He said: “The integrity of the British passport is of national importance and national significance.
“If these tests were bogus and no proper checks were made as to who was handed a pass certificate there is no way of regulating those who end up with a pass certificate and who get a passport are people who should have a passport.
“It is difficult to believe that you could be so greedy and cynical. You have abused the trust reposed in you.”
Yousif, who had a 40 per cent stake in CWL, was described as the prime mover along with his brother Abidrashid Yusuf. Both were jailed for three-and-a half years.
Yassin, who had a 20 per cent share in the business was handed a two-and-a-half year sentence, while Mubarak Yusuf, who joined the conspiracy in 2006, was given 15 months.
THE test scammers face financial ruin after police launched a bid to snatch back their ill-gotten gains.
All of those convicted of running the bogus citizenship test scam face a confiscation hearing in September.
Under the Proceeds of Crime Act the state has the power to examine all assets accumulated over the last six years. During the trial one of the directors, Liban Mohammed Yousif, revealed he paid himself £70,000-a-year.
Those who have been convicted must prove their assets are legitimate.
The test charge was £34, £9 of which was forwarded to the University For Industry which was contracted to oversee testing by the Government. But witnesses said they paid Citywide Learning up to £1,068 – for bogus certificates.
n DS Adrian Ward who led the investigation was singled out for special mention.
At the end of the seven week trial Judge Michael Murphy QC praised the police.
He said: “This is important work, particularly since the fraud involves a necessary precursor to obtaining a British passport. There’s is no terrorist link – but there could have been.”