Indian immigrants paid up to £10,000-a-head to be smuggled through Birmingham Airport to Canada after slipping into Britain illegally.
The cash bought them help from two corrupt members of staff working at the airport and part of a complex network of criminals intent on providing safe passage to their new life across the Atlantic.
But the carefully organised racket was undone by the most simple of mistakes when an illegal immigrant handed his fake documents to the wrong security officer who was not involved in the racket and he immediately raised the alarm.
CCTV shows the pair – Butta Singh and Sukhwinder Nijjar, both from India – passing through the first checkpoint shortly before being caught out, as they were poised to board a flight to Canada. They were each jailed for eight months at Warwick Crown Court shortly after their arrests.
Special surveillance of passengers had initially been launched amid fears of possible people smuggling through Birmingham Airport in 2008 but this blunder gave officials a major breakthrough on October 26 2010.
CCTV revealed that the fake documents had originally been checked by 45 year old Imtiaz Ahmed who worked for ICTS, a firm employed to provided an ‘extra layer’ of security to trans-Atlantic Thomas Cook flights.
Further examination of CCTV film disclosed she had already helped three other illegal immigrants to board flights to Toronto on August 10 and 31 2010. One clip show her waving Sunil Shubh, a genuine passport holder involved in the scam through security to let him get a boarding card for an illegal immigrant to use.
The ‘Mr Big’s’ behind the racket have not been traced but investigators identified Ghulam Sarwar, aged 31, another ICTS employee as the man on the inside providing the link to the gang.
He knew how security procedures worked and is understood to have recruited Ahmed.
The pair were told by Judge Simon Drew: “The men you were helping were strangers and you had no idea what they intended when they got on board those flights.”
Davinder Kandola, 30, co-ordinated arrangements to get the illegal immigrants to the airport while Wolverhampton coach driver Povytar Singh Rai introduced one of the two men on the bungled bid to the gang.
He had been jailed for three and a half years in 2003 for forging passports in another scam involving Indian immigrants and had worked at Birmingham Airport running staff from car parks to the terminal. The ICTS workers involved could have been among those his bus carried although he had left that job in 2009.
Rai, a 45-year-old family man, only admitted being involved in the last of the three illegal immigrant runs through the airport and was sentenced accordingly. Judge Drew passed a Serious Crime Prevention Order against him.
Rai from Myrtle Street, Parkfields was jailed for 18 months while Ahmed of Harbury Road, Balsall Heath, was sent to prison for four years and Sarwar, 31, of Couchman Road, Birmingham, was locked up for three years. Verjinder Johal, 23, of Wilson Road, Bearwood, Sandeep Mann, 26, of Edward Road, Smethwick, and Pardeep Singh, 22, from Ashover Grove, Winson
Green, were each jailed for ten months for allowing their passports to be used in the scam. Sunil Shubh, 22, from Kelia Drive, Smethwick, was jailed for eight months for a similar offence.
Davinder Kandola, 30, from Grays, Essex, was imprisoned for 14 months while Narinder Singh Sidhu, a businessman aged 46, from Wallbrook Street, Bilston, who allowed one of the illegal immigrants to stay overnight before the failed flight to Canada was given a ten month jail sentence suspended for two years with 150 work and £500 costs.
Gurtej Deol, 29, of no fixed address, was given a similar sentence for driving illegal immigrants to catch flights at the airport.
Sarb Singh Rai – no relation to the other defendant of the same name – aged 34 from Leamington Spa got a 14 months suspended prison term, 250 hours unpaid work and £500 costs for also ferrying illegal immigrants to the airport.
Pardeep Singh and Sandeep Mann admitted fraud while the other defendants either admitted or were convicted of intentionally encouraging or assisting the commission of an offence by using fraud.
Birmingham Airport said: “At no point was aviation security compromised as everyone involved went through the required security screening checks.”