Nisa Ul Haq, 41, was the leader of an organised crime group that trafficked Pakistanis to the UK to work in a West Yorkshire clothing factory.
The gang were convicted on 3 December 2015 following an investigation conducted by Immigration Enforcement’s Criminal and Financial Investigation (CFI) team.
While her co-conspirators attended Leeds Crown Court for sentencing in January 2016, Ul Haq, who had been granted bail by a judge, failed to appear and a warrant was issued for her arrest. She was sentenced in her absence to 5 and a half years imprisonment for trafficking, facilitating illegal immigration and attempting to pervert the course of justice.
After months on the run, Ul Haq, who had worked as an immigration solicitor, was caught on 2 August 2016 as she flew into Manchester Airport from Pakistan using her sister’s passport.
Paul Airlie, Deputy Director of Border Force North, said:
Ul Haq tried to use the passport at one of the ePassport gates. Having been rightly rejected by the gate’s facial recognition technology she was directed to one of my officers where a fingerprint check confirmed her true identity and she was arrested.
This was an excellent example of how cutting edge technology and expertly trained Border Force officers work so effectively together, ensuring that a serious offender faced the consequences of her crimes.
The case was passed to the CFI team and Ul Haq was charged with possession of an ID document with improper intention. She was transferred to prison, via Leeds Crown Court where 5 months was added to her 5 and a half year jail term for breach of bail, while the investigation continued.
Today (24 November) she appeared at Leeds Crown Court via video link and admitted the ID document offence. She was immediately jailed for a further 4 months, leaving her overall prison sentence at 6 years and 3 months.
The CFI investigation showed that Ul Haq used her sister’s passport to obtain a visa from the Pakistani Consulate in February 2016. She used the passport and the fraudulently obtained visa to travel to Pakistan.
Rachael Luther, of Immigration Enforcement’s CFI team for the North East, said:
Having committed appalling crimes, Ul Haq then lacked the courage to face the consequences of what she had done and went on the run. However, as this case shows, we are patient people, we keep the pressure on and we never stop looking.
The victims of the trafficking operation that Ul Haq and her co-conspirators ran were promised £18,000 a year jobs at a firm in Huddersfield, but once in the UK they were forced into low paid work and threatened with removal back to Pakistan if they did not comply. Many of the victims sold their homes and possessions in Pakistan to raise funds to pay Ul Haq £14,000 in visa arrangement fees.
At the sentencing in January 2016, 2 co-conspirators, Hajrah Sarfraz and Mohammed Sarfraz, of Victoria Road, Huddersfield, were jailed for 3 and a half years and 3 years respectively for trafficking.
Ul Haq, of The Fairway, Fixby, took £150 a week from each worker’s pay packet in the form of “taxes” while they worked 12 hour days at her company Ezaah Tailorz, Lockwood Road, Huddersfield.
This amount eventually rose to £300 a week. The victims took home just £60 a week in wages.
Investigators discovered that seven workers had come to the UK from Pakistan to work for Ul Haq since 2006.
Rachael Luther added: "This was a shocking case where the victims were promised the opportunity of a lifetime, but quickly found themselves exploited into what was effectively a life of slave labour.
"Modern slavery has no place in the UK and we are determined to identify the criminal gangs behind this evil trade.
"I would urge anyone who has information about potential trafficking or exploitation offences to report their concerns immediately.
"Anyone with information about suspected immigration abuse can contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 anonymously or visit their website."