Businessman fighting deportation tells of anger at family who left him

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A LONDON businessman who faces deportation to Nigeria yesterday told an immigration hearing of the "anger and hatred" he had for the family that abandoned him in Britain when he was 16. Ben James said that when he was thrown out of his private school in London because his family had not paid his fees, his mother told him not to come home and to take care of himself.

Speaking at a special hearing at the Immigration Appellate Authority in London, Mr James said: "I went through a combination of emotions. There was loneliness, anger and I was upset. I did not have any money and (Britain) was a strange country to me."

The 30-year-old commodities broker was giving evidence at a hearing ordered by Home Secretary Jack Straw following a High Court appeal against Mr James' deportation in October.

Mr James told the chief adjudicator, His Honour Judge Dunn, how he grew up in a 10-bedroom house in Lagos, the Nigerian capital. His father, who "terrified" his seven children, owned the largest sewing machine factory in west Africa.

Mr James said when he was aged 14 his father took him to England and enrolled him at Upper Tooting Independent High School, south London, and placed him in the care of a Nigerian family. Lawyers acting for Mr James produced school reports showing he had been a diligent student, to disprove claims made at an earlier hearing in 1993 that he was "lazy and feckless" scholar with "no desire" to finish his schooling.

That hearing dismissed him as a "playboy son from a monied background" whose money was "misapplied on high living instead of school fees". But Mr James said yesterday he worked hard at school to prepare himself for taking over the family business. When he was asked to leave school because his fees were unpaid he sold a television and video given to him by his sister and bought a one-way ticket to Nigeria.

But his family told him to return to London and continue his schooling. Three months later his fees were again left unpaid and his mother told him it was not safe to come home. He worked as a dishwasher and a labourer before getting a job as a junior financial advisor. He then worked for Guardian Royal Exchange before setting up his own business as a commodities broker at the age of 23.

At the earlier adjudication, which Mr James lost, it was ruled that his description of his business "lacked all credibility". But yesterday his lawyers produced accounts showing that the company was making a profit of over pounds 11,000 a year.

Mr James, prescribed anti-depressants because of the strain of his eight- year fight to stay in Britain, said: "This is my home. Everything I own is here, all my friends and the people I depend on most. Nigeria is a strange country to me." Asked how he would cope in west Africa, he said: "I don't think I will survive, sir. I cannot survive physically or mentally."

After the hearing, which resumes today, Mr Straw will decide whether or not to deport Mr James.