Seven men were jailed yesterday for making fake British passports and degrees which they sold for up to £800 each.
The gang were selling the counterfeit documents to immigration offenders to help them live illegally in the UK, a court heard.
But the racket unravelled after an undercover officer placed orders with gang leader Steven Kanaventi, 39.
Seven men were jailed for making fake British passports and degrees after an undercover police officer was supplied with documents by ringleader Steven Kanaventi, 39
Kanaventi, of Coventry, supplied the officer with a string of fake documents, including three passports for £800 each, a British residency permit for £600 and a university degree certificate for £200.
Prosecuting, Lisa Hancox told Woolwich Crown Court yesterday: ‘Steven Kanaventi is the person who was at the coalface of taking orders and money and then the chain ran from there.’
She said Kanaventi had even offered to pay £100 for each new customer the officer supplied.
From late 2015 to June 2017, Immigration Enforcement officers uncovered the wide-scale manufacture and distribution of the fake documents by the London and Midlands gang. Kanaventi was said to have been partly responsible for ordering, supplying and delivering the false documents. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to manufacture a fake document and was given 40 months and two weeks in jail.
Abdul Azeeza, an ex-professional footballer, was sentenced to four years in jail after the court heard the documents were made at his home. The former goalkeeper, 58, who once represented a club in the Nigerian equivalent of the Premier League before retiring in 1996, was found with a false passport in his back pocket, a residency card in his wallet and ‘all the implements of making them on the kitchen table’.
Kanaventi, of Coventry, supplied the officer with a string of fake documents, including three passports for £800 each
Some of the items needed to make fake documents, including specially adapted tools for dismantling passports, threads for stitching, paint thinners and laminate, were found at his home in Walworth in South London. Azeeza pleaded guilty to two counts of possessing an identity document with improper intent and possessing equipment with the intention of making fake documents.
Alfred Adekoya, 47, also of Walworth, was sentenced to 40 months and two weeks after pleading guilty to conspiracy to manufacture a fake document.
Victor Ariyo, of Nunhead, London, acted as a go-between for Kanaventi and Adekoya, the court heard.
In a police interview, Ariyo, 53, said he was a go-between for ‘a spiritual service, and that is why money passed through his account’. But he admitted conspiracy to make a fake document and money laundering. He was sentenced to three years in jail.
Luke Nkanta, 29, of Woolwich in south-east London, was said to have acted as courier. He was sentenced to 16 months in jail after pleading guilty to possession of an identity document with improper intention.
Paul Kanaventi, 37, of Nottingham, pleaded guilty to converting criminal property after he allowed Steven Kanaventi to use his bank account and set up an email address in his name. He was jailed for nine months. Madalitso Majawa, 33, of Redditch, Worcestershire, was sentenced to six months in jail after pleading guilty to possession of an identity document with improper intent.
Immigration Enforcement 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 a build a life for themselves in the UK to which they were simply not entitled… We have stopped a concerted, systematic and financially motivated assault on the UK’s immigration system.’