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Actors used in elaborate citizenship scam to cheat Chinese

PUBLISHED: 12:18 01 October 2009 | UPDATED: 16:28 07 September 2010

A man was found guilty yesterday of holding a fake British citizenship ceremony in Westminster. Xiang Li, 29, was convicted at Southwark Crown Court of being part of a scam which saw between 30 and 50 foreign nationals believe they had secured leave to

A man was found guilty yesterday of holding a fake British citizenship ceremony in Westminster.

Xiang Li, 29, was convicted at Southwark Crown Court of being part of a scam which saw between 30 and 50 foreign nationals believe they had secured leave to remain in the UK.

Crown Prosecution Service lawyer Philip Lemoine said: "This was an elaborate plot designed to extort money out of vulnerable foreign nationals.

"To begin with, Xiang Li operated two fake solicitors' firms in Central London designed to attract Chinese nationals looking for British citizenship.

"When customers visited they were told the firms could arrange citizenship and that a ceremony would be held at a hall in Westminster in December 2007. At that point people were asked to pay a deposit with the full sum of around £20,000 being paid on the day of the ceremony.

"Actors were employed and they were told that on that day they would take part in the filming of a video for Chinese nationals to promote British Citizenship. The actors were instructed to play the parts of officials and to remain in character throughout. They had no idea they were part of this audacious scam operated by Li.

"To increase the realism of the ceremony a picture of the Queen and a Union Jack flag were hung on the wall; the people who were taking part in the ceremony sung the national anthem and swore an oath and they were then provided with Home Office documents and passports, which were subsequently found to be forged.

"Every aspect of the ceremony was designed to provide real authenticity and realism and all the foreign nationals taking part left that day believing that they now had genuine documents and leave to remain in the UK.

"A number of the victims of the scam themselves served prison sentences for the unwitting possession of false identity documents, before giving evidence against Li.

"In total it's thought that over £400,000 was extorted from people and following the successful prosecution in this case the Crown Prosecution Service will now seek to reclaim their money."

Xiang Li was sentenced to four and a half years imprisonment.

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