A FRAUDSTER banked over half a million pounds by duping the Home Office into allowing 188 migrants into the UK illegally.

Shopkeeper Malkeet Singh Rathod, 48, was today jailed for nine years after a judge told him his five-year deception undermined the trust in the immigration system.

Rathod, 48, charged people thousands of pounds by acting as a licensed sponsor to gain them entry from India posing as religious workers who were needed in the Sikh community.

But a jury heard many of those who came to Britain through him found that there was no such work, some ended up working on building sites while others were left relying on others even for food.

Rathod, of Old Lane, Birkenshaw, Bradford, was convicted of fraud by misrepresentation and five charges of money laundering following a trial lasting more than 11 weeks at Leeds Crown Court.

Jailing him, Judge Christopher Batty said: “This was a fraud that goes to the very heart of the immigration system in this country. The sponsorship system is based on trust, conduct of people like you undermines the confidence the public has in that system. It raises suspicion against those who have come to this country legitimately and those who provide a genuine service to citizens of this country.”

Rathod came to the UK as a religious migrant in 1999. After initially obtaining leave to remain as a member of a religious order, he became a naturalised citizen in 2007.

As a result he had the idea to set himself up as a sponsor, first bringing his parents to the UK as religious workers in 2006. Rathod then set up two charities, Guru Nanak Mission UK and later the Sri Guru Nanak Jot Parkash Sikh Society, using them to bring Indian nationals into the country having charged them thousands for visas and other bogus documents.

The jury heard when police and Border Agency officials mounted a dawn raid on one of his properties, a convenience store in Featherstone, in 2013, they found £26,000 in cash in a briefcase.

He had computer systems which could edit documents incorporating logos for the Home Office and Barclays Bank. Inquiries revealed £594,000 had passed through his bank accounts or those of his wife and his sister-in-law.

His wife Manpreet Rathod, 44, a mother of three, was convicted of money laundering and sentenced to six months suspended for 18 months with 100 hours unpaid work. Her sister-in-law Saroj Kaur, 44 of King George Avenue, Coventry, was found guilty of two offences of money laundering and sentenced to four months in prison suspended for 18 months with 100 hours unpaid work.