A solicitor convicted for his part in a notorious visa scam has been struck off.
Sheikh Muhammad Usman, who is serving a seven-year prison sentence for conspiring to get people leave to remain under false identities, will be unable to resume practise upon release.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal said that Mr Usman had “abused his position as a solicitor”.
Mr Usman had been convicted of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration at Croydon Crown Court in April 2018. He was just one part of a major criminal operation which saw a Home Office employee with access to immigration databases falsify records to get people leave to remain under an assumed identity, according to media reports of the trial.
The gang reportedly charged £14,000 a time, making over £6 million from hundreds of desperate clients. Mr Usman, along with an immigration caseworker and a solicitor’s receptionist, provided the clients while Home Office insider Shamsu Iqbal found them documents in the names of real people previously granted leave.
Sentencing Mr Usman to seven years, Judge Peter Gower QC said that the motivation for the “elaborate, sophisticated” scam was “financial rather than humanitarian”. The profit was “derived from the exploitation of people who are often desperate and with very limited means”.
Mr Usman is still in prison and did not appear at the tribunal. He maintained his innocence in corresponce with the Solicitors Regulation Authority, but admitted that the fact of the conviction was a breach of the relevant disciplinary rules.
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He had qualified as a solicitor in England in 2008 and most recently practised as Harvard Solicitors in Tooting, south London.
In a judgment handed down on 13 August, the tribunal said that Mr Usman “had direct control of his participation; he could have refused to involve himself but he did not”. Mr Usman’s conduct was a “major depature” from the standards required of a solicitor.
The tribunal added that “vulnerable people were exploited”.
In addition to the striking off, it ordered Mr Usman to pay £2,500 in costs.
This month also saw the SRA close down the practice of immigration lawyer Aziz Ur-Rehman of Mark Morgan Solicitors in Ilford.