Law firm boss 'at centre of immigration scam'

A law firm manager was at the heart of a lucrative plot to con the Home Office into allowing "hundreds" of foreign nationals to settle in Britain, a court heard today.









The alleged scam involved large numbers of forged documents pretending applicants were entitled to indefinite leave to remain.



They suggested all of them had satisfied the so-called "14-year or long residence rule".



In reality, many had arrived in the country comparatively recently, claimed prosecutor Christopher Amor.



The barrister told London's Southwark Crown Court that Francis Enaharo, 51, was "at the centre" of the conspiracy.



He claimed that, as manager of the south-east London practice Macauley Blackman Solicitors, Enaharo was able to put his clients in touch with the forgers.



"Once the documents were obtained, he acted on behalf of those clients in arranging the subsequent fraudulent applications," Mr Amor told the court.



He said it was part of the Crown's case one of the forgers was 50-year-old Grace O'Connor.



"Documents created by her have been used in large numbers of fraudulent applications for indefinite leave to remain."



Also in the dock was Olumuyiwa Akinrin, 45.



Mr Amor said he, too, provided fake paperwork, although it was "not clear whether he was acting as a middleman".



He added: "However, Enaharo provided his clients with contact details for Akinrin, who in turn arranged the production and supply of the documents.



"In addition to undermine the system of immigration regulation, the defendants also benefited financially from the conspiracy.



"They were able to charge the applicants both for the forged documents and for the submission of the applications themselves.



"The number of fraudulent applications emanating from this one office runs into the hundreds."



Enaharo, of Capston Mews, Gravesend, Kent; O'Connor, of Codrington Hill, Lewisham, south-east London; and Akinrin, of Chabot Drive, Southwark, south-east London, all deny one count of conspiring with other to "assist unlawful immigration to a member state" on or before May 14, 2008.



The court heard current law allows a person to apply for indefinite leave to remain if they can prove they have been in Britain 10 years lawfully or 14 years unlawfully.



Applications have to be supported by proof of residency using so-called residency documents such as utility bills, bank and mortgage statements, tenancy agreements, healthcare records, and medical cards.



Mr Amor said that, to begin with, fake applications were made by Total Legal Services. But after September 2006 that changed to Macauley Blackman when the law firm took over the immigration advice operation.



Enaharo, who had been practice manger for both, "ran the office on a day to day basis, took responsibility for initial contacts with clients of the firm, and became the key figure in the conspiracy".



The barrister said the plot was exposed when police searched the offices of O'Connor's secretarial service firm in connection with an entirely separate mortgage fraud probe.



Among documents seized was a large quantity of paperwork that could have been used to support applications to remain, counsel claimed.



Closer examination discovered many of the gas bills found contained the same error - "cobic feet" instead of cubic. Further tell-tale mistakes were discovered in other fake documents, including Sky television bills.



Mr Amor told jurors what appeared to be a price list for specific documents was also recovered.



He claimed the evidence suggested O'Connor not only knew Enaharo but, like him, had also worked for the immigration advice firm.



"In the light of this, her claim she had no idea her forgeries would be used support fraudulent immigration applications appears extremely dubious."



Jurors heard an undercover officer, posing as an illegal immigrant from Ghana hoping to settle in Britain, subsequently made an appointment with Macauley Blackman.



After explaining he did not meet the legal requirements, he was allegedly told he would be introduced to someone who could arrange the necessary paperwork for £960.



It was claimed the secretly taped conversation heard Enaharo assure the officer his contacts could easily provide "any document you want...to support your application".



However, when the officer met Akinrin he was informed it would actually cost him £1,200.



He was told: "What you are getting is documents to say you've been here for 14 years."



In the event he was handed a bundle of documentation including an NHS card, utility bills, a bank statement, payslips, P60s, hospital letters and business administration diploma.



When Akinrin's home was eventually searched, allegedly bogus paperwork was found, while more incriminating material recovered from his car linked him to Enaharo.



Some 500 client files were also seized from the law firm, with the "vast majority" apparently containing forged documents supporting leave to remain applications, with "suggesting" a connection with O'Connor.



Mr Amor said while O'Connor gave a "no comment" interview, she "admitted" forging when questioned earlier about the mortgage fraud allegations. However, she insisted she never suspected they would be used to breach immigration law.



For his part, Akinrin responded to only a handful of questions. But the barrister told jurors it was "likely his case will be he did not know the nature of the documents he was providing".



He added: "The prosecution simply say the undercover officer's recordings, as well as the application of basic common sense to this claim, prove conclusively he knew exactly the nature of the business with which he was involved."



Enaharo, however, answered all questions but emphasised he was a practice manager, not a lawyer, insisted "the solicitors were responsible for the application", and said he knew nothing about forged documents.





Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried