A West London-based immigration advisor accused of swindling tens of thousands of pounds from unsuspecting students from India has been stripped of his advisory role by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC).
Alpesh Patel, who ran Aaryas Careers Ltd from a serviced office in Brentford, has also been bailed by the Metropolitan Police following the scam which saw him charge students up to £15,000 each in return for bogus work permits.
The OISC, which regulates immigration advisors in the UK, took the action this week following complaints by nearly forty different students – many of them from India and Nepal – and a campaign by the UKAsian.
Patel and his associates used bogus documents and non-existent companies to dupe the students into handing over cash, promising them “Certificates of Sponsorship” for Tier 2 Work Permits.
The work permits were never issued and the Home Office refused the student’s applications, charging them with “deception” which meant that they would be deported and would be unable to apply for visas to any western country for a period of ten years.
Each student had separately approached Patel 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 his associates Naval Shah and Ronak Patel. The trio had previously operated a “college” in West London which was shut down in 2013.
The students claim Patel justified the exorbitant fees – Tier 2 visas cost on average £651 – on the grounds that the companies would provide “training”.
The students were led to believe that both companies had the right to issue “Certificates of Sponsorship” (COS) which turned out to be rather shabby counterfeits.
When confronted by the students with their Home Office rejection letters, Patel claimed that the rejection was an “Administrative Error” and that the matter would be resolved.
Patel’s modus operandi in each case was to drag out the application and appeals process until such time that the students have no choice but to leave the UK.
During his OISC hearing, Patel routinely denied all allegations against him, insisting that it was all the fault of his associates. The Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner however, ruled that Patel’s assertions were “wholly unsatisfactory and unconvincing” in light of the overwhelming evidence.
Aside from being stripped of his OISC license, Patel is currently under investigation by the Metropolitan Police’s online crime and fraud division Falcon.
Following a judicial review by the Home Office, the crucial deception charge against the students has also been lifted and the Home Office has asked the students to submit fresh applications.
One student Ankit Pachchiger, who was brought to near ruin after borrowing money from family and friends to pay Patel, says he’s relieved but decried the loopholes that allow people like Patel to exploit innocent students.
“We’ve been fighting for justice for nearly two years. I have not been allowed to work during the investigation and this man has nearly destroyed me and a whole lot of other people. And he was routinely taking advantage of a system that is easy to exploit”, Pachchiger said.
The OISC’s move comes after the fraud was first revealed by the UKAsian. Our reporters confronted Patel at his Brentford office as he returned from a trip to Europe – with the students alleging that he had gone on holiday using their money.
Patel denied the allegations and maintained that it all been an “administrative error” by the Home Office.
Not satisfied with charging thousands of pounds from the students, Alpesh Patel also recruited some of them – at £500 a time – to become members of ACN, the notorious US Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) company.
Despite the mounting evidence against him, Patel had remained defiant with a message on his Facebook page declaring “I will win. Not immediately but definitely”.
The authorities, it appears, have taken a different view – albeit one that has taken a not-insignificant time.
The Home Office and Met Police have refused to comment on an on-going investigation.