Members of an organised crime gang who conspired to manufacture and supply fake ID documents for illegal immigrants have been jailed for a total of more than 16 years.
Investigators from the Home Office’s immigration enforcement division monitored the gang from late 2015 until June 2017, gathering evidence which ultimately led to the conviction of seven conspirators from Coventry, Nottingham, Redditch and London.
Over the course of their investigation, officers unearthed the wide-scale distribution of British passports, British residence permits, degree certificates and Constructions Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) cards, all of them fake.
Prices ranged from £200 for the CSCS card and degree certificates, to £900 for a passport .
The gang was led by Steven Kanaventi, 39, of Mulliner Street, Coventry, and Alfred Adekoya, 47, of Kingslake Street, London.
They were each jailed for three years and four months at Woolwich Crown Court on Friday, having pleaded guilty to conspiracy to manufacture a fake document at an earlier hearing.
Speaking after the sentencing, Inspector Ben Thomas said: “The criminal business that Kanaventi and Adekoya were running was designed to undermine the fundamental immigration rule that if you have no legal status in the UK, you have no right to work.
“Their customers hoped that the fake documents would be enough to convince prospective employers that they were entitled to work, in turn allowing them to build a life for themselves in the UK to which they were simply not entitled.
“By bringing Kanaventi, Adekoya and their associates to justice we have stopped a concerted, systematic and financially motivated assault on the UK’s immigration system.”
Adekoya was arrested on 20 June last year after making an exchange inside a betting shop in Woolwich with Luke Nkanta, 29. When Adekoya was stopped and searched shortly after the transaction had been made, he was found in possession of three counterfeit British passports.
When Nkanta, of Wordsworth House, Woolwich, was stopped, he was found with an envelope containing a counterfeit British passport.
Also arrested on 20 June was Abdul Azeeza, 57. When officers raided his home address in Missenden they found a fake residence permit and a fake passport, as well as specially adapted tools for dismantling passports, threads for stitching, paint thinners and laminating equipment – used in the manufacture of fake ID documents.
He also had numerous orders for fake documents, some on his phone and some completed on betting slips.
Kanaventi was arrested at his home address just over a week later on 28 June. Arrested on the same day, each at their home addresses, were three accomplices: Paul Kanaventi, 37, of Forster Street, Nottingham; Victor Ariyo, 53, of Rye Hill Park, London; and Madalitso Majawa, 33, of Ombersley Close, Redditch.
Mr Thomas said Steven Kanaventi was a “particularly brazen operator” and used the social media alias ‘Chris Namatchanga’ – “a clear play on words of ‘name changer’.”
“Kanaventi was involved in every part of the Midlands operation. He set the prices, he placed the orders with his forger Ariyo and he was even caught on CCTV posting the counterfeit documents to his customers.”
Like Adekoya and Steven Kanaventi, Ariyo, Azeeza, Paul Kanaventi, Nkanta and Majawa had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing.
Ariyo admitted conspiracy to manufacture a fake document and money laundering. Azeeza admitted possessing fake documents and possessing equipment with the intention of making fake documents.
Paul Kanaventi admitted money laundering, while Nkanta and Majawa both admitted to possessing fake ID documents with improper intention.
Immigration enforcement officials say they will now pursue the confiscation of £135,000 in cash, which was sitting in a bank account belonging to Ariyo.
A Home Office spokesman said the conviction of the seven men illustrates the determination of investigators to go after those who facilitate illegal immigration.
However, authorities acknowledge the London and Midlands criminal gang is just the tip of the iceberg in an illegal enterprise, in which criminals are making many millions of pounds in the trade in fake documents.