'Fake Irish lives' scam to secure UK residency
Thousands of people are using a scam to secure residency for non-EU family members in the UK by creating false 'lives' in Ireland, it has been reported.
Fraudsters are believed to be making millions by helping close relatives of UK nationals from outside the European Economic Area create the fake histories and circumvent immigration restrictions.
The scam exploits laws that allow residency to be decided on European free-movement rules, rather than UK immigration laws, if a spouse of a British citizen comes to Britain after working in another EEA country.
The British government warned it was a "growing industry" and anyone caught attempting to cheat the system could be banned for 10 years.
An investigation by BBC Radio's 'File On 4' found immigration advisers, lawyers and accountants were involved, with people paying up to £25,000 (€29,000) each to secure paperwork.
Det Supt Stephen Courage, from the Garda National Immigration Bureau, explained how the fraudsters were making the "staggering" profits.
"The facilitator will quite often set up a company, of which you will either be an owner or a director. They will also create a work history for you.
"They will create payslips, they will open bank accounts, and also pay nominal tax so when the immigration service receives an application to exercise EU treaty rights, it will look at the paperwork and, on the face of it, it will appear that you have a life in Ireland.
"The people we are coming across in our investigations are often from a professional background, whether it be in law or accounting.
"The profits they're making are staggering.
"We would see this as a multi-million-euro enterprise," he said.