A group of Indian students who allege they have been left out of pocket to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds after being defrauded by a West London immigration advisor staged a silent protest outside the man’s residence on Sunday (31 January) as new details emerged of the case and the plight of the students.
A group of fifteen students braved the bone-chilling cold and a steady downpour as they gatheed outside the home of accused fraudster Alpesh Patel in Hounslow, carrying placards demanding justice.
Some of the students were accompanied by their families.
One placard urged the Metropolitan Police and the Home Office to take immediate action against Patel and his associates – Kushal Shah AKA Sid Banerjee and Ronak Patel AKA Nawal Shah – while others described the desperation felt by many of the alleged victims, each of whom was charged between £12,000 and £15,000 in return for a Tier 2 Work Permit which never transpired.
The 08-year-old daughter of one of Alpesh Patel’s victims.
Instead the students – graduates of some of the best universities in the UK, including Anglia Ruskin, Cardiff, Sunderland and Newcastle – were issued with rejection letters and compulsary 10-year bans to the UK after Patel and his accomplices used fake documents in the Work Permit applications.
Each student had separately approached Patel – an immigration advisor registered with the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) and who runs a company called Aaryas Careers Ltd from a serviced office in Brentford, West London – for immigration advice after completing their undergraduate or graduate studies.
In each case Patel referred them to two companies – OnTime Transport and Clarabridge UK – run by Shah and Ronak Patel. The trio had previously operated a “college” in West London which was shut down in 2013.
Accused fraudster Alpesh Patel greeted protestors with a smile outside his home on Sunday.
The students claim Patel justified the exorbitant fees – Tier 2 visas cost on average £651 – on the grounds that “on the job training” would need to be provided for them.
The students were led to believe that both companies had the right to issue “Certificates of Sponsorship” (COS) – the first requirement for a Tier 2 visa – which turned out to be rather shabby counterfeits.
When confronted by the students, Patel is alleged to have claimed that the rejection was an “Administrative Error” by the Home Office and that the matter would be resolved.
The Home Office however, have since told the students the COS’s were indeed fakes.
Patel’s modus operandi in each case was to drag out the application and appeals process until such time that the students have little choice but to leave the UK.
The Home Office is currently considering a judicial review – filed by Patel and his associates without consultation with the students or their consent – although the review will merely look into the process by which the applications were rejected rather than the actual reasons for the rejection – i.e. the fake COS.
Since then new details have emerged that suggest that the scam may be finally unravelling and that an even wider group of people may be involved.
The 20 students that provided their stories to the UKAsian are now thought to be merely the tip of the iceberg as scores of others have approached us – from as far afield as Leicester and Gujarat, India – claiming that they too have fallen victim to Patel.
Two days after the story broke, a man claiming to be a solicitor representing Kushal Shah and Ronak Patel contacted the UKAsian, saying that Messers Shah and Patel (Ronak) wanted to issue a statement, denying allegations made to us by Alpesh Patel that it was, in fact, they who had taken the money from the students.
We informed him that we had made numerous overtures, especially to Shah, for comment, and that he had ignored calls, texts and emails.
The man then pleaded for a meeting between the UKAsian’s editor Viji Alles and the men, which was refused.
One of the victims – Ulster University Business Studies graduate Ankit Pachchiger – has also claimed that he has received overtures by another man claiming to be representing Alpesh Patel.
The man reportedly demanded that Pachchiger, 29, withdraw a group complaint to the Metropolitan Police and the Home Office in return for all the money that Patel had taken from him – totalling just over £15,000.
Pachchiger has denied the request and continues to be the unofficial spokesman for the group.
Several students have also revealed that Patel, not content with extracting exorbitant sums of money from them, also recruited them – at £500 a pop – to become members of ACN, the US multi-level marketing company that some have described as a scam and a “pyramid scheme”.
Despite the mounting evidence against him, Patel remains defiant with a message on his Facebook page declaring “I will win. Not immediately but definitely”.
When contacted, Hounslow police told the UKAsian that they are investigating the matter and are being assisted by FALCON – the Met Police’s specialist fraud and online crime department.
According to one unconfirmed report, the police are currenty pursuing no less than 45 separate allegations against Patel and his associates.
In what is one barely visible silver lining, several Tier 2 applications filed by students through Patel in November and December – two months after the first rejections began coming through – have been returned by the Home Office, crucially without the deception cause and asking students to re-apply themselves in a another category.
During Sunday’s protest, Patel emerged briefly from his three-bedroom new-built house and appeared shocked that a protest was taking place outside. Soon after he called the police – a favoured tactic given that he had called for police when the UKAsian confronted him on camera – who appeared briefly before leaving, saying that the protest was lawful.
An hour into the protest, Patel again emerged with his wife and two young daughters – dressed up for a Sunday afternoon sojourn – but refused to answer questions or respond to appeals for comment.