Swansea student asylum seeker jailed for £250,000 fraud

Image caption,
Mohammed Al-Sulaiti will be deported after completing his sentence.

An overseas student has been jailed for two years at Cardiff Crown Court for fraudulently claiming £250,000 in benefits and funding.

Mohammed Al-Sulaiti, 35, from Qatar, enrolled as a PhD student at Swansea University at the same time as he was claiming asylum in the UK.

He told the UK Border Agency he could not support a wife and six children but he had bank accounts and investments.

He was called "thoroughly dishonest" and will be deported after jail.

Al-Sulaiti's deception began when he entered the UK on a student visa in 2005.

He claimed asylum and during his application he signed a form declaring that his family had no cash, savings, investments or property.

He was given asylum support by the UK Border Agency, which is intended for asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute.

This included accommodation in Swansea, payment of all utility bills, and up to £400 per week for him and his family.

However, UK Border Agency investigators later discovered that he had several thousand pounds in different bank accounts, numerous business interests and financial investments.

He was also being sponsored to study in the UK by a medical firm and the government of Qatar.

Asylum support is provided to people seeking protection on condition they do not work while their claim is considered.

But in May 2007 Al-Sulaiti began working illegally as a postgraduate research assistant at Swansea University's School of Medicine, after providing the university with false documents stating he had the right to work in the UK.

As well as being paid for working, he successfully applied through the university to the Overseas Student Research Fund for a bursary to pay for his tuition fees.

In total, it is believed Al-Sulaiti fraudulently obtained financial support and accommodation worth nearly £210,000 from the UK Border Agency, £33,000 in tuition fee payments from Swansea University and the Overseas Student Research Fund and £10,000 in illegally-obtained wages from the university.

He was arrested at his house in Manselton, Swansea on 30 March after officers were alerted by officials from the agency's asylum support team.

Al-Sulaiti was charged with benefit fraud and was being tried when he pleaded guilty in the middle of his trial on 4 October.

Jailing him, Judge Stephen Hopkins QC said: "You are 35 years of age, a paramedic, intelligent, well educated and fluent in English - you are also thoroughly dishonest and devious,

The judge said Al-Sulaiti had shown "a wholesale abuse of the UK's generous asylum system".

'Highly deceptive individual'

He added: "You have exploited the generosity of the asylum benefits system by deliberately defrauding it from the outset."

The UK Border Agency said steps would be taken to recover the money from Al-Sulaiti under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Steve Jones, from the UK Border Agency's south Wales immigration crime team, said: "Al-Sulaiti is a highly deceptive individual who has stolen thousands of pounds from the public purse and Swansea University.

"The UK Border Agency's asylum support system is there to help people who would otherwise be destitute while their claims for asylum are considered - not to line the pockets of individuals who have access to money and who are working illegally."

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