The Times said:February 13, 2007
'Citizenship exam scam' may have let hundreds of immigrants cheat
Police are investigating an alleged scam that may have helped hundreds of immigrants to cheat their way to a British passport.
Four men were arrested when officers raided a training centre where more than four thousand people have taken the Home Office's much vaunted citizenship test.
It is alleged that hundreds of pass certificates were sold to applicants whose poor grasp of English gave them little or no hope of success in the "Life in the UK" test.
The 24-question examination, introduced in November 2005 to test people's knowledge of the British way of life, has to be taken by any immigrant seeking naturalisation.
Applicants can sit the online test at any one of 107 test centres across the country under a programme run by the University for Industry (UFI) on behalf of the Home Office.
Concerns about the operation of a test centre in Sheffield, owned by City Wide Learning Centre Ltd, first emerged in December and the police were contacted early last month.
The company's premises were raided at the weekend and detectives detained four men, in their late twenties and early thirties, on suspicion of corruption. Computers and documents were seized and are being examined by police.
City Wide Learning's contract to deliver the test has been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation. The alleged "cash-for-citizenship" scam is said to have started last autumn, since when an estimated 1,000 tests have been taken at the Sheffield centre. It is understood that UFI staff were surprised to discover that applicants from across the country, including London, had applied to take their citizenship test in Sheffield. Adrian Beddow, a UFI spokesman, said that it had noticed irregular "pockets of activity" and knew that the pass rate at Sheffield was higher than the national average.
Last July a test centre in northwest London was closed temporarily after it was alleged that an Albanian gang was charging Â£700 per applicant to fix the outcome of the test.
A member of staff at the centre, which was attached to Barnet College, was suspended and later dismissed after reports that she had been paid to take the tests for people who had paid money to the gang.
Police investigated but it was ruled that there was insufficient evidence for a criminal prosecution.
The Home Office pledged yesterday to revoke the citizenship of anyone who was found to have passed the test fraudulently.
South Yorkshire Police said last night that the four men who were detained on Saturday had been released on bail pending further inquiries.
Three men are listed at Companies House as the directors of City Wide Learning Centre Ltd: Mohammed Yousif, 31, Mustafa Yassin, 26, and Abdi Yusuf, 34.
They were unavailable for comment yesterday, as was the centre's manager.
Brains of Britain
- Applicants pay Â£34 to sit the citizenship test and are given 45 minutes to answer 24 questions about life in the United Kingdom
- They must answer 75 per cent of the questions correctly to achieve a pass
1 Which of these courts uses a jury system?
(a) Magistrates' court
(b) Crown court
(c) Youth court
(d) County court
(The correct answer is: Crown court)
2 Is the statement below true or false? Your employer can dismiss you for joining a trade union. (The correct answer is false)
3 Which two telephone numbers can be used to dial the emergency services? (a) 112; (b) 123; (c) 555; (d) 999. (The correct answers are 112 and 999)
4 Which of these statements is correct? A television licence is required for each television in a home; A single television licence covers all televisions in a home. (The second statement is the correct answer)
Source: Home Office