FROM the outside, Training Direct seemed a legitimate company which used adverts on Asian radio and television stations to promote its English citizenship courses which it said were accredited by one of the country’s best-known examining boards.
The one-day courses ran from a genuine training centre in Leeds with Training Direct providing a company certificate on completion and a promise the all-important City & Guilds’ confirmation – a potential passport to UK citizenship – would arrive six to eight weeks later in the post.
But in reality it was a well orchestrated scam. City & Guilds had no connection with Training Direct, there was no accreditation and the confirmations would never drop through the letterbox.
Instead, the swindle netted well over £250,000 from nearly 800 expectant and hopeful immigrants who paid £350 a time for a worthless course. Tens of thousands more were gained from setting up similar but smaller enterprises in Glasgow and Luton.
Yousaf Amin, the architect of the scheme, organised the English language courses to run from the Team Talk training centre in Torre Road in Leeds.
Training Direct ran the English for Speakers of a Foreign Language (ESOL) course three days a week between November 2007 and March 2008. With up to 30 people attending each course, the criminal enterprise delivered very healthy proceeds – most of which Amin used to feed his gambling habit and frittered away in casinos.
The money came from innocent victims like Nasreen Akram, who took the course in December 2007.
When the Yorkshire Post exposed the scam in April 2008, Mrs Akram’s husband, who booked the course and accompanied his wife to the training centre, said Training Direct had insisted on receiving the £350 in cash on the day.
Javed Akram, from Huddersfield, said his wife went through a perfunctory course learning simple English terms in parrot-fashion in the morning and a subsequent “test” early in the afternoon which involved answers such as giving her age in English.
At 4pm, the applicants were given certificates confirming completion of the course and that it conformed to the citizenship requirements. They were also told the accredited certificate from City & Guilds would arrive within eight weeks, at which point an application for citizenship or Indefinite Leave to Remain – permanent residence in the UK – could be made.
Mr Akram told the Yorkshire Post: “It looked like a genuine company, the way the thing was set up, but it’s put me out of pocket by £350. They have built up false hopes for the people who did the course – it’s left me very angry.
“When I found out it was a bogus company and we were never going to get the certificate from City & Guilds I just wanted to find out who was responsible.”
Amin developed the scam after learning details of how a legitimate company called Training Connect ran ESOL courses required for UK citizenship that really were accredited by City & Guilds, one of a clutch of examining boards specifically approved for the purpose by the Home Office.
To provide a professional sheen to his criminal enterprise, Amin doctored a genuine Training Connect certificate to produce fake certificates carrying Training Direct’s name along with a smaller number of fake City & Guilds certificates.
The courses running from Leeds were the main focus of the swindle but Training Direct also ran courses one day a week in Glasgow for a shorter period and for a single day in Luton, netting criminal proceeds of around £320,000 in total.
Yesterday’s sentencing hearing at Bradford Crown Court heard that police received a tip-off and went to the single course Training Direct ran in Luton in February 2008 but took their investigations no further.
Throughout, the scam was linked to another fraudulent company Amin was running called Temple and Khan, in Bradford, which falsely claimed to offer a legitimate immigration advice service.
Amin, who was running Temple and Khan in the name of his accomplice, Sajad Khan, after being permanently banned from being an immigration adviser for orchestrating a previous swindle, encouraged clients at the Bradford business to book the fake English course at Training Direct.
Temple and Khan was based in Hallfield Road on the outskirts of Bradford city centre. With the help of Sajad Khan, Amin obtained a business reference from Temple and Khan’s unwitting landlord when booking Training Direct’s office accommodation with Team Talk in Leeds.
Amin also used a “virtual office” facility in London which was rented in the name of Khan to give the impression Training Direct had a head office in the capital. In reality, the virtual office acted as a PO box from which mail was redirected to the offices of Temple and Khan in Bradford.
When the scam unravelled in the spring of 2008, Amin disappeared, leaving rent to Temple and Khan’s landlord unpaid and Team Talk £20,000 out of pocket when fees for booking the training centre went unpaid.