Three lawyers convicted in 2019 of providing unregulated immigration advice worth millions have been ordered to cough up over £45,000 between them in fines and compensation.
Dan Romulus Dandes, Babbar Ali Jamil and Zia Bi were sentenced at the Old Bailey on 5 January 2021 for their roles in a sham supervision scheme rumbled by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner. The scheme, run by Dandes and Jamil under the name DDR Legal, purported to allow immigration advisers to operate without OISC regulation but was in fact illegal.
Dandes was ordered to pay £20,000 in compensation to victims and a £750 fine. Jamil was fined £10,000. Bi, who availed of the sham supervision scheme, was fined £6,000 and ordered to pay £8,745 in compensation. Her company, Burlow and Spencer, generated fees in excess of £2.5 million before being shut down.
The regulator has been investigating DDR Legal for years. The company claimed to have identified a loophole under which it could, in effect, supervise multiple immigration advisers on behalf of the OISC, rather than them having to register directly. A DDR Legal advertising pack told potential customers “you don’t need to worry about technology, regulations, licenses, or OISC registration”.
The company charged “licensees” £3,000 up front and took 20% of their turnover, according to an archived version of its website. In return, it promised that advisers could set up an immigration advice business with “no experience needed” and the potential for “unlimited earnings”. Its advertising pack gave the example of £3,500 profit for handling an asylum case.
By the time its owners were convicted, DDR Legal claimed to have “18 licensees with a combined turnover of £27 million”. We asked the regulator how many other firms took advantage of the scheme and what, if any, action has been taken against them. The OISC advised us to submit a Freedom of Information request.
Passing sentence at the Old Bailey, judge Sarah Munro QC said that “both Ms Bi and Mr Dandes now accept that they were negligent and innocent people suffered as a result”. Jamil didn’t turn up and was fined in his absence.
OISC chief John Tuckett said that the trio had “acted outside the law by providing immigration advice illegally and putting the lives of many vulnerable people at risk”.