Zia Bi, 39, was a director at Burlow & Spencer Ltd, which allegedly took fees from 19 clients despite having staff that were not properly trained. She’s seen outside the Old Bailey today
A law firm boss illegally provided immigration advice while not qualified for more than two years, the Old Bailey heard today.
Zia Bi, 39, was a director at Burlow & Spencer Ltd, which allegedly took fees from 19 clients despite having staff that were not properly trained.
In one case, this left a client who had gone back to Thailand to care for sick relatives unable to return to her husband in the UK because her visa had expired, it is claimed.
Simon Ray, prosecuting, told the court how Burlow & Spencer presented itself online as an international law firm that provided quality advice tailored to each client.
‘We handle the most basic of visit visa applications all the way through to complex applications in country and entry clearance,’ he quoted its website as saying.
In total 95 complaints were made against Burlow & Spencer between February 2016 and March 2018, 19 of which form part of the prosecution case.
Turning to the case against Bi, Mr Ray said: ‘She should have made sure that Burlow & Spencer were properly qualified, but she did not.’
Dan Romulus Dandes, 53, and Babbar Jamil, 32, also face charges alongside Bi.
As directors of DDR Legal Services LLP, which supervised Burlow & Spencer, they are also accused of providing legal advice without proper qualifications.
Mr Ray said: ‘All 19 complainants named on the indictment purported to have paid a fee to Burlow & Spencer.
‘Both Mr Dandes and Mr Jamal knew that Burlow & Spencer were providing unlawful legal advice.’
Dandes denied the claims and said he believed his work was ‘100 percent legal’.
Dan Romulus Dandes, 53, seen outside the Old Bailey today, is also accused of providing legal advice while untrained
Jurors heard the case of Jeffrey Crowther, a client whose wife of five years went back to Thailand to care for sick relatives in 2016.
During her stay abroad her visa expired and she was unable to return to United Kingdom.
Mr Crowther applied to renew his wife’s right to stay in the UK with Burlow & Spencer, but they wrongly said his wife was from the Philippines and left out medical records.
He said: ‘I went on to the internet and found their website. It would be probably be towards the end of April 2016.
‘I explained the circumstances at length. They told me they would make the application to the Home Office for a settlement visa.’
Mr Crowther was sent a completed application form but asked whether it was correct, he replied: ‘Not it was not.
‘There quite a few things wrong. The English language certificate had been superseded in April 2015.
‘They got her nationality wrong. I corrected that application form and sent it back. They missed out her TB clearance certificate.’
The application was eventually refused by the Home Office and Mr Crawford sued Burlow & Spencer for damages and won having spent £3,000 on the process.
Another client, Yvonne Leach, lost her son and wanted to bring his twin sister over from Ethiopia for the funeral but had her application declined, the court heard.
She told the jury: ‘I tried everything. I complained to Burlow & Spencer. I went to the Citizens Advice Bureau. I went to the town hall. I met with my MP.’
Dandes told the court that DDR Legal Services – which was responsible for any grievances raised by clients of Burlow and Spencer – was a legitimate business.
Giving evidence, he said: ‘Sometimes I think I am a little bit over-qualified in what I am doing.’
He produced a series of certificates, explaining: ‘They show I have no restrictions, and I authorised to represent any entity in Europe.’
Jurors heard after the fall of the Soviet Block he left Romania in June 1991 and travelled to New York.
Living in Queens he took a degree in Political Science at City University and joined a law firm as an apprentice when be began to be contacted over the internet about immigration cases.
But he was told by colleagues: ‘If you stay in the US you will be a drop in the ocean. If you go to Romania, you will be one of the few.’
Babbar Jamil, 32, (right, next to Bi outside the Old Bailey) faces the same charges as Dandes
In 1998 he returned to Romania and took the bar and qualified as a lawyer after studying at the University of Bucharest.
He told the jury of eight women and four men: ‘I decided to work exclusively for foreign entities and individuals that have various problems in Romania.
‘I provided services Pro Bono [without payment]. Then I started getting clients. I worked for ten years being sole attorney and counsel of one of the biggest Austrian firms.
‘After a period of time Mr Jamil contacted me. I flew to England and I met him, and I was very impressed by his knowledge, his voice, his diligence and his conscientiousness.
‘I liked what I saw in the partnership with him. He suggested something very important.
‘Application processes in the UK were not slow but took extra time than I expected, but Mr Jamil came up with a great software which improved the application procedure.
‘Everything was good, I think even the government should have it. Simple and not time consuming.
‘I did it because it was 100% legal. My reputation for my statues was impeccable. I would not put my future, my license, the future of my children on the line.’
When asked whether he realised his membership of the bar in Romania was not valid for providing immigration services in the UK he said: ‘I had no idea’.
The married father of two explained he spends a lot of time working on cases or with his family.
He said he is an American citizen with property in California.
Bi, of Birmingham, denies one charge of providing immigration advice when not qualified to do so as director of Burlow & Spencer.
Dandes, of central London, denies two counts of providing immigration advice and two of providing immigration services while not qualified.
Jamil, of the same address, denies one count of providing immigration services and one of providing advice while not qualified.
Burlow & Spencer deny denies two counts of providing immigration advice and two counts of providing immigration services.
DDR Legal Service LLP deny one count of providing immigration services and one of providing advice while not qualified.
The charges date from February 1, 2016 to April 30, 2018.
The trial continues and the defendants deny the charges.
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