Nineteen arrested for Brick Lane visa fraud

Brick Lane Mela. Pic: Boishakhi Mela Community Trust

Police in Bangladesh have arrested 19 people over allegations that they provided false statements and forged documents in support of visa applications to attend a Bengali festival in Brick Lane.

It has been disclosed that the applicants were arrested on May 24 for providing forged documentation with their business visitor visa applications to be stallholders at the London Boishaki Mela, which was which attended by thousands of people on May 20.

Bangladesh police cooperated with locally based UK Border Agency officials, in an investigation which discovered that they paid up to 10 Lak Taka (approximately £10,000) each to get forged documents such as bank statements.

The UK Border Agency in Bangladesh has an integrated fraud assessment unit, which successfully uncovers and investigates high volumes of fraud and forgery in UK visa applications.

Nick Low, British Deputy High Commissioner said: “I strongly advise anyone wanting to obtain a visa to visit the UK not to listen to agents who offer to sell forged documents and say they can guarantee a visa.”

The incident is the second of its kind in recent years relating to the Mela, a secular celebration of the Bengali New Year.  In June 2007 Tower Hamlets council chief executive Martin Smith suspended its “service level agreement” with the Baishakhi Mela Trust following allegations connected to work permits.

The Mela, which was held in the Weavers Field and Brick Lane area, is one of the East End’s most prestigious festivals but many community leaders were worried its world famous reputation was being spoiled.

Shiraj Haque, chairman of the Boishaki Community Trust defended the reputation of the event: “We delivered a Boishakhi Mela the entire community were able to enjoy, a Mela that brought people of all generations and cultures to Tower Hamlets, to celebrate Bangladeshi heritage.”

Anyone applying for a business visa to the UK needs a British based business sponsor. These come in the form of a letter from the UK business describing the work to be done.

By Masruba Tasnim

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