Three immigration lawyers have been convicted of a host of regulatory offences after raking in millions from incompetent and unsupervised immigration advice.
Dan Romulus Dandes, Babbar Ali Jamil and Zia Bi were found guilty of 19 offences of providing unqualified immigration advice and/or services contrary to section 91 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. The trial took place at the Old Bailey after intervention by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC).
Mr Dandes and Mr Jamil ran DDR Legal Services, a firm that purported to supervise immigration advisers instead of them having to properly qualify and be regulated by the OISC. Ms Bia was the director of Burlow & Spencer, an immigration law firm controlled by DDR Legal and one of those supposedly supervised by it.
As a lawyer qualified in Romania, Mr Dandes claimed to be able to supervise OISC advisers. DDR Legal advertised a “franchising” model under which advisers could operate “without the need for OISC or SRA registration”. In return, it took 20% of their turnover.
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Earnings had reached £17.7 million by last year, according to Court News UK (£). Confiscation orders are in the works.
DDR Legal came to our attention last year when Rochdale man Tariq Hussain was convicted of providing unregulated immigration advice despite claiming to be supervised, including by “a London firm headed by a lawyer based in Romania”. It transpires that the OISC has been investigating for two years.
Clients lodged 95 complaints against Burlow & Spencer in just two years. In one case, staff got the nationality of a visa applicant wrong. The Old Bailey also heard that employees of Burlow & Spencer encouraged clients to lie to the Home Office to secure visas. The firm is now in liquidation.
Mr Dandes reportedly told the court: “I did it because it was 100 per cent legal. My reputation was impeccable. I would not put my future, my licence, the future of my children on the line.”
Dr Ian Leigh, Deputy Commissioner of the OISC, said:
In a devious and calculating way over a considerable period of time the scheme put in place by DDR Legal Services LLP was successful in dishonestly taking a significant amount of money from vulnerable people.
There was a total disregard for statutory requirements, and they acted in deliberate defiance of the law.
The DDR Legal website claims to have “assisted over a dozen franchisees, licensees and affiliates to realise their dream of launching their own immigration business”. At time of writing it was still live and promoting the bogus “franchising” model, although calls to the advertised number went unanswered this morning.
It is not clear how many of those who availed of the sham supervision scheme were subsequently prosecuted for providing unregulated immigration advice. Mr Dandes and his associates will be sentenced once the confiscation proceedings are over.
Prison sentences are reportedly unlikely, but Judge Sarah Munro QC said the case would “inevitably result in financial penalties”.