Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Meet the African Mastermind behind 225 UK sham weddings and £2.8million benefits scam

The ringleader of a £2.8million benefits and sham marriages scam should have been deported ten years ago, it has emerged.

Amankou Ndoli, who came to Britain from the Ivory Coast in 1992, led a gang who falsely obtained National Insurance numbers to claim handouts.

The 48-year-old also arranged 225 sham marriages to allow migrants to receive marriage certificates recognised in the UK at an 'incalculable' cost to the British taxpayer.

But Ndoli should not even have been in the country after being jailed for two years in 2005 for arranging a sham marriage for a friend for which he charged £2,500.

Ordered to be deported on his release, Ndoli repeatedly appealed against the decision – allowing him to stay in Britain and embark on a fresh crimewave.

On Monday, his gang was jailed for a total of 17 years by Judge Nicholas Ainley at Croydon Crown Court for a seven-year fraud operation that netted them at least £2.8million. He told them: 'This was a long-running and skilfully-planned fraud aimed at the benefits system of this country and our immigration controls.

'Some of you acted as interpreters in a bid to gain National Insurance numbers for French citizens claiming to be living in this country... before applications were made for a range of benefits – all of them fraudulent.

'Marriages were arranged abroad and they were all shams. The value of benefits claims was some £2.8million but the value of immigration claims is simply incalculable.' He added: 'The scale of this fraud was enormous.'

Ndoli was the only member of the six-strong gang not in court this week as he was taken ill on remand in prison after suffering an aneurism and will be sentenced at a later date. In the sophisticated fraud, the conmen brought French nationals into Britain for Home Office interviews to apply for national insurance numbers.

The French arrivals would then return home, while the gang created bank accounts to pretend they were EU citizens still living in the UK. The fraudsters would then use the NI codes to apply for housing, council tax and work benefits, child allowances and tax credits.

A four-year inquiry involved officials from the Department of Work and Pensions, the Home Office and Revenue and Customs who believe the gang could have been responsible for many more millions in fraud. Prosecutor Paul Raudnitz outlined how Ndoli was the 'undoubted ringleader'.
Latvian-born Erika Lazdane, 48, from Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, was part of Ndoli's gang 

He said that of 399 known IDs of French nationals who came to Britain to apply for NI numbers, Ndoli was responsible for 267.

Investigators found he was responsible for more than 500 Eurostar and 100 flight bookings to bring French citizens into the country. While he ran a car export business with 'only modest profits', his bank account contained £2million. Officials also discovered a string of Western Union bank transfers to France and the Ivory Coast. Ndoli gave them 'no comment' interviews.

The conman, from Burton-on Trent, Staffordshire, was jailed for fraud 11 years ago and was told by Judge John Warner he would be deported on his release.

However, Department of Work and Pensions sources claimed he may have used the 'right to a family life' defence when making attempts to fight the order.

The court was told he was himself in receipt of benefits and child tax benefits as he had two 'young children.' Last night Ukip MP Douglas Carswell said: 'People will feel anger that this gang has been ripping us off by attacking both the benefits and immigration system. 'We have an incompetent elite running the country who do not know how to crack down on these criminals and we risk becoming a global centre for such serial rip-off merchants.'

The gang also took part in arranging 'proxy' marriages between those in Ghana and the Ivory Coast and the same French citizens whose NI numbers had been harvested.

The couple would remain in Britain, while they were represented by others 'by proxy' at a wedding in Africa. While unusual, under European laws, certificates from such unions are recognised as legitimate in this country.

Three years ago, the then Chief Inspector of Borders in Britain, John Vine, warned such marriages were being used to subvert British immigration rules.

Figures in October 2013 revealed that nearly 20 per cent of those applying for residence in Britain had undergone 'proxy' marriages.The gang were behind at least 225 'known' sham marriages for which they charged around £5,000 a time.

Because of the sheer scale of their operation the real losses to the UK taxpayer could run into tens of millions of pounds with fears a large numbers of IDs remain undetected. One of the fraudsters was Ayi D'Almeida, a UK citizen born in Benin who worked as a booking clerk for Eurostar at St Pancras.
Among Ndoli's gang was French national Jordane Nice, 25, who admitted to fraud at a hearing in October
The gang were caught after making the simple mistake of using one particular address in Streatham, South London, for multiple NI applications. Surveillance saw the group often using a hotel in Camberwell, South-East London, to house French citizens before they underwent Home Office interviews. The six faced the main charge that between 2008 and 2015 they conspired to fraudulently exploit the identities of EU nationals. Along with Ndoli, the swindlers consisted of London-based D'Almeida, 36, Mahamoud Simakan, 36 and Ivory Coast-born Mathieu Aka, 52.

Also among them were French national Jordane Nice, 25, and Latvian-born Erika Lazdane, 48, from Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire. All admitted fraud at a hearing in October.

Simakan also admitted a second count of fraud and was jailed for five years and four months at the sentencing hearing this week. Aka received four years and eight months, while Nice was given two years and Lazdane received 12 months' in prison after admitting a sham marriage with Felix Konadu.Eurostar booking clerk D'Almeida was cleared of conspiracy – claiming he did not know what they were doing with the cheap tickets he provided. But he admitted defrauding Eurostar of more than £1million in ticket sales after arranging almost 7,000 journeys for French nationals to enter Britain by train and was jailed for four years.

A confiscation hearing will be held at a later date in a bid to recover monies stolen by the gang.

The Daily Mail repeatedly asked the Home Office how and why Ndoli was able to remain in the country after being told he would be deported but spokesman Richard Crowe refused to comment.

It also emerged that the ringleader had 'on-off' relationships with fellow gang members Nice and Lazdane.

Source: Daily Mail

1 comment:

  1. At least it's not a Nigerian for once