19 arrested in Bangladesh for UK visa fraud ‘to work for Brick Lane Mela’

The 19 men arrested in Bangladesh for fraud for trying to get visas with alleged forged papers to come to Britain on the pretext of working for the Brick Lane Mela may have been caught by information from festival organisers, it has emerged.

The UK Border Agency and British High Commission had been tipped off by the Boishakhi Mela Trust about just who was taking part in the annual street festival which attracts 100,000 spectators to London’s East End.

The trust issued a statement to the Advertiser last night saying: “We notified the High Commission in Dhaka of any organisations which failed our strict scrutiny to trade at the Mela.

“The High Commission and UK Border Agency have acted on our information and Bangladesh police have made these arrests.”

The Trust condemned those “misrepresenting paperwork in the name of the Mela in order to come to the UK.”

The 19 were arrested by police in Dhaka on May 24 after applying for visas at the British High Commission.

Allegations involve payments up to �10,000 each to agents to get visa applications through.

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The High Commission issued a media statement saying they were “suspected of providing forged documents and false bank statements to attend the Boishakhi Mela in east London as stall holders.”

The Border Agency was targeting “organised criminal gangs” who abuse Britain’s immigration system. Its Visa Services director Philippa Rouse said: “Those caught trying to con the system face long bans from the UK.”

The arrests have led to calls by Tower Hamlets councillors this week for the annual Mela to be taken back under council control.

Tory Group leader Peter Golds told the Advertiser: “The Mela is being used for people trafficking—why do we need work permits to get people from abroad to run stalls?

“The council took control of the Mela four years ago because of trafficking. It should be taken back again where there will be proper checks and audits.”

But the Mela trust accused Cllr Golds of jumping the gun.

Its marketing spokesman Rej Hoque said: “It’s good the community has taken back the Mela from the council—he’s being irresponsible and jumping the gun.”

Tower Hamlets took over in 2007 after allegations of “people trafficking” the year before. The-then Bethnal Green MP George Galloway demanded an inquiry to see whether the Mela had been abused to smuggle illegal immigrants into Britain.