Britain’s charity watchdog has disqualified the trustee of a British Sikh charity and barred him from being involved in any charity in future after he was found guilty of misusing the organisation for visa fraud to bring Indian nationals to the country.
The Charity Commission had already removed the Khalsa Missionary Society from the UK’s national register in February 2016 and its statutory inquiry concluded yesterday that 57-year-old trustee Ravinder Singh had misused the charity to facilitate immigration fraud.
The regulator had opened its statutory inquiry in 2014 after the Home Office began a criminal investigation into charity, set up to advance the Sikh religion in the UK through prayer meetings and lectures, and producing literature on Sikhism.
As part of the visa scam, Indian migrants paid the Khalsa Missionary Society around £4,500 per head to sponsor their visa applications as religious ministers to be employed by the charity.
“The charity had been used as a conduit for the immigration fraud, which worked by the charity sponsoring individuals as ministers for religion, while funds were circulated through the charity’s bank accounts to give the appearance that the charity was receiving legitimate donations,” the commission said in its report.
“The inquiry concluded that there had been misconduct and mismanagement in the administration of the charity. He had breached his legal duties to protect the charity’s assets by using the charity as a conduit to commit immigration fraud,” it adds.
The regulator also concluded that Singh had provided false and misleading information to the commission.
The Home Office began investigating the charity back in 2012 and charged Singh with fraud.
He went on to plead guilty at Manchester Crown Court to three counts of assisting unlawful immigration between 2011 and 2013, and was sentenced to 27 months’ imprisonment in May 2016.
Carl Mehta, head of investigations and enforcement at the Charity Commission, said: “We work closely with law enforcement agencies to prevent and disrupt abuse of charities. In this case we were able to share information with the Home Office Immigration and Enforcement Criminal Investigations Team and support the successful prosecution of an individual who was benefiting from this disgraceful abuse of charitable status.
“Charity trustees must act with integrity and avoid any personal benefit or conflicts of interest. They must not misuse charity funds or assets and make decisions which are reasonable and in the best interests of the charity,” Mehta said.
The Commission’s inquiry had found that Singh was only one active trustee in the charity and had removed him as a trustee in January 2016.
“The prosecution case is that Khalsa was used by Ravinder Singh for an illegal purpose – for Indian migrants to either enter or remain in the UK as ministers of religion when that wasn’t the case,” prosecutor Joanna Rodikis had told the court during Singh’s trial last year.