A British immigration officer, employed in the British Embassy in Nigeria, faked a UK visa application for her Nigerian nanny in an attempt to get her into Britain illegally and work for just £300 a month, a court heard this week.
The UK Border Agency (UKBA) office, Natasha Vukic, who was based in Nigeria, tried to bring her housekeeper Rose Inah back to the UK with her as ‘cheap labour’, jurors were told.
Vukic, 36, and her partner James Mooney, 33, falsely claimed that Ms Inah had been working for them in Nigeria for a year, which is a requirement to qualify for a domestic worker visa, the prosecution alleged. The truth is the couple had only employed the woman for six months, Inner London Crown Court was told.
Vukic and Mooney, who had previously worked as an immigration officer before taking up a management position with the Foreign Office in Lagos, both deny the charge of assisting unlawful immigration.
It is alleged that they faked Ms Inah’s documents so they could traffik her to their home in Coulsdon, Surrey, where she would have worked 11 hours a day, five days a week, looking after their three year-old son for a salary well below the National Minimum Wage.
Prosecuting Barrister Riel Karmy-Jones told the jury: ‘The motive is one of greed. Had they succeeded, had Rose come to the UK for a period of a year, she would have worked for what can only be described as a pittance.’
Vukic and Mooney apparently hatched the plan in May 2011 at a secure compound where government staff were posted.
Miss Karmy-Jones said: ‘Their role in this offence is all the more culpable and serious because of what they do, for Natasha Vukic and James Mooney have both considered and approved and refused the applications made by others.
‘They have, in effect, stood in judgement over others for the very same offence they have now committed.’
Outlining the case, Miss Karmy-Jones said: ‘Sometime in the spring of 2011 Natasha Vukic and James Mooney decided to return to the UK.
‘Natasha Vukic had obtained a transfer back to the UK. She was due to take up a post in the UKBA’s Criminal and Financial Investigations Unit, based in Croydon.
‘She planned to take her young son with her. No doubt on her mind was childcare, and specifically the cost of childcare in London was something that she and James Mooney had to consider.’
She added: ‘They hit upon a plan that their Nigerian nanny and maid Rose would be the ideal candidate to continue to look after their son when Natasha worked in London.’
Vukic was said to have filled out a UK visa application form on their maid’s behalf.
Mooney allegedly submitted the visa form on May 25 last year, together with a copy of the maid’s contract falsely claiming she had been working for the couple since May 10, 2010.
In fact, Ms Inah had only been working for the couple since November 2010 – six months short of what they had claimed on her visa application to the British Embassy.
She added: ‘In submitting that form, as they did, Natasha Vukic and James Mooney were breaking the law.’
But having obtaining the domestic worker visa, Mooney then asked for it to be reissued as it had only been granted for 11 months as opposed to the full year requested, jurors were told.
This attracted the attention of issuing officer Lindsey Moore, who knew the couple and recalled visiting their flat in the autumn of 2010 before a night out.
On the visit, Mrs Moore observed that Vukic annoyed that their maid was late, it is claimed.
Mrs Moore is then said to have heard that the couple had sacked the unreliable maid shortly afterwards and found a replacement called Rose – months later than claimed on the application form.
Further investigation revealed a log showing the previous maid, Georgina, had not handed in her security pass until November 2, 2011 and that Rose had only been issued her first pass sixteen days later, the court heard.
The maid named Georgina was interviewed and confirmed that she had been sacked ‘a few months before Christmas 2010’ after being accused of stealing around £4, it is claimed.
A search of Mooney’s staff email uncovered a message sent by him to a colleague, confirming he and Vukic had hired a new nanny, jurors heard.
Vukic, who had since returned to the UK, was arrested on June 8 last year. She had allegedly emailed a UKBA colleague, saying: ‘It’s not looking good, I’ll speak to you later.’
Vukic denied the allegation, as did her partner when he returned to the UK for an interview later that month.
Mooney even claimed that Mrs Moore ‘did not like him because he went out drinking with her husband,’ the court heard.
The trial continues this week, and if found guilty the couple will probably face a prison sentence, as the authorities usually like to make an example when one of their own who goes bad.
Cynthia Barker of Bison UK immigration advisers has acted for a number of runaway domestic worker victims, including some abused by well known wealth employers. She said the Nigerian Nanny would not have been trapped in her job had she come to the UK:
“Had they managed to get the domestic worker into the UK, chances are she would have done a runner once here and found a proper employer! Domestic workers in London earn upwards of £300-£400 per WEEK after tax, and they get free accommodation and food.
“All workers, including foreign staff on work permits, student visas and domestic visas, enjoy the same employment rights and their British counterparts. Look at the case of Liz Hurley’s former Nanny who was paid Indian wages while working in London for her billionaire ex-Husband”
Could it be that their Nigerian Nanny knew all this and was already one jump ahead of the silly couple?
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