Photo-. Left Jordane Nice, Middle - Amankou Ndoli & Right - Erika Lazdane
It is not clear how he had the right originally to live in Britain, but we know that he first resided here in 1992, with leave to remain until 2008. Yet he should have had this privilege revoked as soon as he was released from prison.
But he had two sons, born here in 1994 and 1998, and could therefore assert his ‘human right to family life’. The lawyers and bureaucrats got to work on his appeals, and, a decade later, Mr Ndoli is still here. It is not obvious how he achieved this — because the Home Office can’t or won’t tell us, but manage it he did.
What we do know is that in the years following his release from jail, Ndoli decided that, far from repaying his good luck by renouncing crime, he would simply get better at it.
The results were there to see this week when his gang — three men and two women, who were both Ndoli’s lovers — were jailed at Croydon Crown Court for fraud or conspiracy to defraud.
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For at least seven years, they conducted a minutely choreographed attack on the benefits system. The scam went like this: a French national was paid to visit Britain, usually getting here by Eurostar, and given a fake residence and work documents stating they had been living and working in the UK. Of course, under EU law, they were perfectly entitled to come here.
They then attended an interview with the Department of Work and Pensions, with a member of the gang present as an interpreter, and obtained a National Insurance (NI) number. This entitled them to claim the full panoply of welfare benefits, such as rent payments, council tax rebates and child benefits.
Bank accounts — thousands of them — were then opened in the names of the French applicants, who were instructed to inform the French authorities at a later date that their documents had been stolen.
This, so the theory went, would give them an alibi, enabling them to get off the hook when documents in their name were used for fraudulent purposes.
With the NI numbers obtained, the gang got to work with more forged documents, claiming every conceivable handout, from child and housing benefit to disability allowance.
Bogus workplaces cited in NI applications ranged from money transfer companies to the suitably French Cheyne Walk Brasserie in Chelsea, West London. Documentation stolen from these companies was doctored to provide proof of employment.
Some of the French recruits were then ‘recycled’ to take part in sham marriages. Remarkably, this country recognises marriages which take place in non-EU countries, often African countries such as Ghana and Ivory Coast, during which neither the bride or groom is even present.
The fake couple, one of whom will be an EU citizen, can remain in Britain while a wedding ceremony takes place in a foreign country. Unbelievably, the certificate resulting from this operation is valid in the UK, and can immediately secure the non-EU party temporary residency here.
The gang carried out this dual fraud on an industrial scale — conducting at least 225 sham marriages in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, charging beneficiaries £5,000 a time. There could have been many more, but these are the ones for which evidence was available. Benefit fraud alone earned the gang at least £2.8 million — Ndoli had £2 million in his bank accounts.
But this belies the true extent of his and his accomplices’ gains, with the judge describing the cost as ‘incalculable’.
Ndoli also ran a car dealership called Bassam Car Export Limited, the proceeds from which could not possibly account for the £2 million in his accounts, half of it the result of cash deposits.
Despite these vast profits, his first attempt as a purveyor of sham marriages ended less than auspiciously.
After moving to Britain aged 25, he set up home in Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, where, in 2004, he arranged a sham marriage. The ceremony was halted after the Ivorian groom started reading from a crib sheet when answering personal questions about his bride as part of Home Office checks to try to stop bogus weddings. It later transpired the groom had paid Ndoli £2,500 to set up the ceremony.
Ndoli was caught and jailed for two years, with the judge recommending that he be deported on his release. While in Birmingham’s Winson Green Prison in 2005, he wrote a collection of poems under the misleading title of ‘Not a Criminal’.
However, having fathered two sons in the Nineties, he was able to avoid deportation back to the Ivory Coast on the basis of his ‘right to a family life’. This was under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights.
Meanwhile, he struck up an on-off relationship with Erika Lazdane, who had moved to Burton upon Trent from her native Latvia. The 48-year-old became integral to the conspiracy, booking NI interviews and entering into a ‘marriage’ with a man from Ghana in a proxy service held in that country.
Lazdane, who claimed to be in love with Ndoli, received a one-year sentence this week.
However, Ndoli also enjoyed another on-off relationship with the other female member of his gang, 25-year-old Jordane Nice, a Guadeloupe-born French national.
Her role involved acting as interpreter during NI interviews and chaperoning bogus claimants when they travelled from France for short stays at the Pasha Hotel in Camberwell, South London.
Admitting to making false benefit claims of £42,000 and accusing Ndoli of being violent towards her, she was jailed for two years.
A key role was taken by Ayi D’Almeida, a booking clerk for Eurostar in London.
D’Almeida, a 36-year-old father-of-four, was raised in Benin, the former French west African territory of Dahomey, before moving to Lewisham, South London.
D’Almeida was used by Ndoli to get cheap Eurostar tickets for the bogus French NI applicants. He’d book tickets early at a cheap price then, at the last minute, change the names on the tickets to accommodate Ndoli’s French recruits.
This scam cost Eurostar at least £1,055,000. The court heard that 399 French nationals visited Britain to falsely apply for NI numbers, but D’Almeida is believed to have manipulated at least 6,800 fares in total.
The Eurostar clerk successfully protested that he did not know the purpose for which the rail tickets were being used. D’Almeida, now a British national, was jailed for four years.
Higher up the gang’s pecking order was Mathieu Aka, 52. Also from the Ivory Coast, he has been a resident of the UK for the past 25 years, with a partner and child.
When his Camberwell home was raided, police discovered a suitcase containing documents linking him to more than 70 false identities. His two bank accounts contained £80,000 from electronic transfers and £82,000 from cash deposits. He was sent to prison for four years and eight months.
Mahamoud Simakan, the final member of the gang, was Ndoli’s right-hand man, and he profited handsomely, receiving at least £310,000 in benefits.
A French national of African descent, he had continued to work with the gang even while on bail for an offence which ended in him going to jail. In 2011, Simakan was arrested at Dover in possession of false ID.
However, officers failed to realise his significance, and after serving half a 15-month sentence, he was out again working with Ndoli.
During this week’s hearing, the judge sentenced the 36-year-old to five years and four months in jail.
In the end, it was sloppiness that put paid to Ndoli’s gang. They overused one address, in Wavertree Road, Streatham, South London, on benefits applications.
Last year, after four years of inquiries, 100 officers from the Metropolitan Police, Department of Work and Pensions and HM Revenue and Customs, raided ten addresses.
This week, the Home Office trumpeted the convictions as ‘a warning to anyone who thinks they can cheat their way around the rules’.
Culled - Dailymail
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