A gang who smuggled illegal immigrants on flights from Birmingham Airport to Canada have been jailed.
The racket – that could have been used by terrorists – was run with the help of two corrupt airline security contractors who let bogus passengers through crucial checks, Birmingham Crown Court heard yesterday.
It was smashed on October 26 2010 after one of two illegal immigrants accidently handed his false passport to the wrong security guard for checking, thinking the person was involved in the scam.
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.
As part of the scam, legitimate British passport holders checked in with suitcases - which they had been given without any idea of what they contained - for trans-Atlantic flights on which seats had been booked in their names with return tickets bought by the smugglers.
They then handed their boarding pass and and other flight paperwork to the illegal immigrants who already had fake passports made in the same names but with their own photographs stuck inside, the court was told.
The travel documents were ‘checked’ by 45 year old Imtiaz Ahmed, one of the two airport workers involved in the scam, who allowed them to board the plane to Toronto, revealed prosecutor Mr Malcolm Morse.
Investigators also identified Ghulam Sarwar, aged 31, who also worked at the airport as the man on the inside providing the link to the gang.
The travellers - who had slipped into the UK on the first stage of their journey to Canada - deliberately destroyed the passport and other paperwork during the flight and claimed asylum when they landed without documentation on the other side of the Atlantic.
Judge Simon Drew said as he sentenced 11 defendants involved in the fraud yesterday: “This struck at the integrity of internationally accepted identity documents under the rigorous international efforts to enforce airport security arrangements following the events of September 11 2001.
"There were significant security implications to this but this was not a terrorist case. This was a commercial operation run for financial gain. Not all of those involved in the scheme are in the dock but a number of those who played important roles are.”
A key figure in the smuggling ring was Wolverhampton coach driver Povytar Singh Rai whose ‘fingerprints were all over’ the bungled bid to smuggle two illegal immigrants through the airport that led to the scam being uncovered, said the judge.
The 45-year-old from Myrtle Street, Parkfields, had been jailed for three and a half years in 2003 for forging passports in another immigration racket.
The judge passed a Serious Crime Prevention Order against Rai which will start from his date of release after serving the 18 month sentence he received yesterday. The order will impose restrictions on his life, such as cutting down on computer usage to prevent him from committing crimes.