Former BA employee allegedly orchestrated £3m immigration scam from Heathrow check-in desk

<span>A check-in area at Heathrow Airport, where a 24-year-old former British Airways employee was allegedly running a £3m immigration scam. </span><span>Photograph: Katharina Brandt/Alamy</span>
A check-in area at Heathrow Airport, where a 24-year-old former British Airways employee was allegedly running a £3m immigration scam. Photograph: Katharina Brandt/Alamy

A former British Airways employee is reportedly under investigation over allegations that he orchestrated a £3m immigration scam from a Heathrow check-in desk.

The 24-year-old suspect left his job and moved to India after being bailed over the claims, according to the Times.

The BA check-in supervisor is alleged to have charged people £25,000 to wave them through Terminal 5 and on to planes without valid visa documents.

A source told the Guardian the alleged incident is believed to have involved helping people circumvent immigration laws to get into Canada, and that the passengers had the correct documentation to be in the UK.

The majority of travellers who benefited were Indian citizens planning on claiming asylum in Canada and who were told to fly from India to the UK on a temporary visitor visa, the Times reported.

Others were UK-based asylum claimants at risk of being denied the right to remain and being deported.

A BA spokesperson said on Tuesday: “We are assisting the authorities with their investigation.”

The man was arrested on 6 January and subsequently absconded to India where he is understood to have multiple homes. He was accompanied by his partner, who also worked for the airline, the Times reported.

UK Border Force and police are working with Indian authorities to track down the pair, who have not been named. The UK has an extradition treaty with India.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “It would be inappropriate to comment while an investigation is ongoing.”

Airlines usually check that passengers meet the entry requirements for their destination.

Passengers with visas have a manual visa check before their boarding pass is validated.

The alleged fraud is understood to have involved passengers who had booked flights to Canada without a valid visa.

Airline sources said the suspect would subsequently ensure they would go to his check-in desk at Terminal 5, where he could falsely enter on the system that he had seen proof of a visa.

He would also process passengers at the boarding gate, the Times report said. The passengers would reportedly claim asylum upon arrival in Canada.

Officials in Canada became concerned after a pattern emerged of passengers on BA flights to Toronto or Vancouver arriving without a visa to claim asylum, the newspaper reported.