A man who admitted acting for 200 clients who wrongly believed he was qualified to give them immigration law advice is one of three such offenders to be sentenced recently.
Immigration is the only area of law which is not one of the reserved legal activities but is subject to a standalone regulatory regime that allows non-lawyers to work in it.
Ngoyi Malumba pleaded guilty to providing immigration advice and services unlawfully through his firm, Tameside Human Rights Watch, in Manchester. He received a hospital order under section 37 of the Mental Health Act.
The Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) said it launched an investigation “in response to concerns raised about Mr Malumba’s competence after he represented a client at a hearing in the First-Tier Tribunal at Hatton Cross, West London”.
Sentencing him at Manchester Crown Court, His Honour Judge Timothy Smith said that “whatever lay in the motivation”, Mr Malumba was “wrongly acting on behalf of potentially or actually vulnerable people” detained and looking for advice on asylum, extradition or deportation.
He said 18 people were mentioned on the indictment over three years between 2015 and 2018.
“There are suggestions you acted for a far greater number of people, providing advice and service and taking money from them… You were entirely at all times unqualified to do so and you in large part knew that.
“At times when people were at risk or had deadlines to meet in relation to their detention you were filling in forms which were inappropriate. They were not getting assistance they properly deserved.
“Their own cases may have been prejudiced by your conduct. Ultimately it was done for gain by you totalling £25,000.”
Dr Ian Leigh, deputy immigration services commissioner, added: “This is not a technical or victimless crime. Ngoyi Malumba, set up a business to provide immigration advice when he was not qualified or competent to do so.
“He was advising vulnerable people who could not handle their immigration cases on their own… 200 trusted him and he betrayed that trust.”
Meanwhile, another unqualified immigration adviser, Ghazala Nazir, was given a suspended sentence of 12 months at Southwark Crown Court.
A spokesman for the OISC said: “The complainant, who believed Ms. Nazir to be a qualified person working for a firm of solicitors, paid her to prepare and submit applications for him to remain in the UK.
“Errors made by Ms Nazir caused a delay in the process resulting in inconvenience and stress to the complainant, as well as financial loss.”
The offences took place between July 2015 and September 2016 in Dalston, East London.
Sentencing Ms Nazir, His Honour Judge Gledhill QC added: “A message must go out loud and clear to people who attempt to get easy money from people in vulnerable positions, that if they are caught the consequences will be severe.”
Ms Nazir, from Pinner, Middlesex, was given a compensation order requiring her to pay the complainant £1050.
The OISC said that in a further case, Namrata Thakkar, from Acton, West London, pleaded guilty to two counts of providing unregulated immigration advice and services between January 2016 and March 2017.
“Namrata Thakkar was employed as a recruitment consultant/immigration adviser between May 2012 and January 2016.
“As part of her employment she was required to be regulated by the OISC to provide immigration advice and assistance to persons recruited from all over the world to work in the UK.
“When her employment was terminated she continued to provide immigration advice, which she was no longer qualified to provide.”
Sentencing her at Westminster Magistrates Court, district judge Blake, said: “I see these as very serious offences where the starting point for sentence is one of custody….
“I give you credit for the guilty pleas, the considerable mitigation that you have repaid the fees charged, and your deteriorating health issues.”
Ms Thakkar was sentenced to 12 weeks’ imprisonment, suspended for one year. She was also ordered to pay prosecution costs of £1,500 and a victim surcharge of £115.