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6 Nov 2014

Arrested in 2012, court in late 2014

Two illegal immigrants who conned the Government into allowing them to stay in Britain as asylum seekers and claimed £130,000 in benefits just by changing their names face jail today. (h/t A Reader)

Mohammed Zakariya Wadiwala, 42, and wife Zenabbibi, 44, used a false identities to claim asylum in the UK from India in 2007 before claiming handouts for themselves and their five children.

The couple landed in Britain under the bogus name Sheikh instead of Wadiwali, meaning the family's asylum case has 'dragged on for years', Preston Crown Court heard. Prosecutors say had their real name been known to the authorities they would have been deported back to their homeland within a 'matter of months'.

The couple claimed they had lost all their documentation and were in danger if they returned to India.

While their asylum case rumbled on they claimed up to £2,000 a month over almost six years to house and feed themselves and their family. In all they pocketed £134,438 worth of benefits before being arrested following an investigation in 2012.

At Preston Crown Court the couple, of Blackburn, Lancashire, spoke through an Urdu interpreter to plead guilty to fraud linked to false identities and claiming financial support, and were told they face jail.

Granting both unconditional bail until sentencing next month Judge Ian Leeming QC said:
Rather than a speedy refusal of asylum, the matter dragged on for years during which time more benefits and advantaged accrued - on the face of it £134,438 worth of benefits. The court is keeping all its sentencing options open. It seems clear that some form of custody will be appropriate.
If they are jailed they will serve their sentence and then most likely be deported.

Earlier the court heard how Wadiwala, a Muslim had married his wife, a Hindu, in 2003, claimed they had to flee to Britain fearing persecution - after one of their children was killed due the cultural differences.

They arrived in the UK with two children but Wadiwala illegally used the name Jakir Sheikh - which he had previously used in India - and claimed Mrs Wadiwala as a 'dependent'.

It is thought the couple then went on to have more children as his claim for asylum was processed.

The prosecution told the court: 'It's a fraud. When he arrived he gave the name of Jakir Sheikh and claimed Mrs Wadiwala as a dependent. She became the main claimant. It's a joint enterprise. When he arrived, he arrived on proper documentation then adopted Sheikh for his asylum claim. Had Mr and Mrs Wadiwala claimed asylum under their own names the claim would have been fast tracked and dealt with within a matter of months. When they arrived in this country from India they had their own passports in their own names, because the data was available the checks could have been made with India very quickly. They would have been deported within a matter of months. For a matter of months they would have been entitled to benefits. Because they said they had lost all the identity documents it took much, much longer.'

Wadiwala pleaded guilty to making a false representation to an immigration officer that his name was Jakir Sheikh and he had come to the UK to seek asylum enabling him to obtain financial and other support. He also admitted possession of false identity documents with intent and possession of a NASS card used to establish registered facts about himself.

His wife pleaded guilty to possessing false identity documents with intent, possessing a NASS card used to establish registered facts about herself and making a false representation to an immigration officer that her name was Shabnam Sheikh and she had come to the UK to seek asylum enabling her to obtain financial and other support.

The offences took place between August 2007 and December 2012.

Wadiwala's counsel Kenneth Hind said that his client had changed his name in India in order to avoid persecution and came to the UK on a passport in his 'birth name.' He added that it was accepted that he should have used his name Wadiwala and said neither the immigration authorities or the Indian authorities were able to identify Mr and Mrs Sheikh.

Through the translator Wadiwala said of his wife: 'The result of her changing her faith led to the killing of one of my children. They tried to kill us both and tried to kidnap her. The Hindu family turning to the religion of Islam is not welcome and people do not accept it. There is a huge risk. As a result of conversions in India there are many examples where girls have been killed as a result. I wanted to save my children and and my wife and I had no choice but to change my name at deed poll and as a result fled India. The reason why there's a change because I was threatened, my life was under threat. People had attempted to kill me.'

He said he went to Mumbai but that persecutors found him. He added that he came to the UK to 'save my life'.

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