Exploiting loopholes in Britain's immigration system, three young Pakistani businessmen set up a network of sham colleges in the UK where thousands of Pakistanis enrolled as students and earned millions from the scam, the media reported on Thursday.
Mir Ahmad, a wealthy associate of the three, linked to two murders in Pakistan, was arrested on Wednesday after The
Times gave the Home Office a dossier implicating two of the colleges.
The gateway has allowed hundreds of men from a region of Pakistan that is the militant heartland of al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban, The Times claimed.
Eight of the terror suspects arrested last month in Manchester and Liverpool were on the books of one college. They had enrolled for an 11-month period at Manchester College of Professional Studies. It had three small classrooms and three teachers for the 1,797 students on its books. Another college claimed to have 150 students but secretly enrolled 1,178 and offered places to a further 1,575 overseas applicants, 906 of them in Pakistan.
According to the report, those running the scam charged at least 1,000 pounds for admission places and fake diplomas. They created their own university to issue bogus degrees. They also charged 2,500 pounds for false attendance records, diplomas and degrees that were used to extend the students' stay in Britain.
The newspaper has uncovered close ties between 11 colleges in London, Manchester and Bradford, all formed in the
past five years and controlled by the three young Pakistani businessmen who entered Britain on a student visa.
One has fled to Pakistan after earning about 6 million pounds from the scam. Fayaz Ali Khan and another man are in
the UK. According to the report, two Liverpool universities admitted last night that they had given places to four of the
eight terror suspects, who had used a diploma from the college when they applied.
Manchester College of Professional Studies, set up in 2006, sold places to more than 1,000 students, including hundreds of men from North West Frontier Province, where a battle is raging between Taliban fighters and the Pakistani Army. Others came from mountainous tribal areas near the Afghan border, described by US President Barack Obama as "the most dangerous place in the world."
The college was removed from an official government register of education providers last summer but those who ran
it have set up other colleges, the report said.