A total of nine people have been convicted of fraud over the organisation of English tests for overseas students seeking UK visas.
The trials at Southwark Crown Court in London resulted from a BBC Panorama investigation in 2014 into English tests at two centres that were accredited to run the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC). The test is essential for students seeking to study in the UK because they need to be able to show a certain standard of English before they are awarded a student visa.
The BBC programme uncovered evidence that fake sitters were taking the exams on behalf of overseas students at Eden College International (ECI) in east London and at the Universal Training Centre in Watford. Film of real candidates standing aside to allow people who spoke better English than them to take the exams on their behalf was shown at the trials. The court was also shown film of exam invigilators reading out the correct answers to multiple choice questions for candidates to copy.
Candidates were charged £500 for a ‘guaranteed pass’ and the fake exam sitters were paid £50 for each exam they took. It’s believed more than 1,000 candidates used this route to fraudulently pass the exams so they could obtain a UK student visa.
Mohammed Hasan, Talal Choudhury, Shaheen Ahmed, and Harinder Kumar were found guilty of conspiring to facilitate breaches of immigration law, and immigration agent Chowdhury Baker Habib also pleaded guilty to the charge.
Earlier in the year, Zahid Hafeez was sentenced to five years in jail as part of the same case, and Fassiuddin Mohammad – who escaped abroad and was tried in his absence – received the same sentence. Faiza Noreen and Sameer Shaikh, received suspended sentences.