Immigration officer seeks unfair dismissal compensationSunday, July 29th, 2012
An employment tribunal has been told how immigration officials played solitaire on their computers rather than trying to tackle a problem with sham marriages.
It was alleged that when one investigator, Neville Sprague, refused to “turn a blind eye” to the issue, he was eventually sacked.
A major criminal conspiracy had been uncovered in which foreign nationals applied for ‘spouse’ visas, allowing them to stay in the UK.
However, despite these criminal activities having “far reaching consequences” for the UK’s immigration situation, Mr Sprague said bosses showed little interest when he tried to encourage them to take action.
The 59-year-old former chief immigration officer said: “I was singled out because of my reluctance to ignore serious organised criminal activities in relation to bogus sham marriages.
“I wanted action taken, but the department wanted to brush the scandal under the carpet and wanted me out of the way.
“Some members of the unit found it difficult to do any real motivated work. Some were quite happy to sit on their computers playing solitaire and similar games rather than working.”
Mr Sprague spent 25 years as a uniformed police officer and detective with the Metropolitan Police.
He joined the Home Office in 2001 on a salary of £26,000-a-year, working as part of the Border Control Crime Team, which has since changed its name to National Tactical Operations.
Things started to go downhill when department boss Jill Smith promoted investigator twice in short succession.
The jobs were not advertised and according to Border Agency inspector Janet Griffiths, she had not seen such a quick double promotion in her 20 years working for the service.
The tribunal in Croydon heard that many staff members were ‘annoyed’ by Mr Buswell’s swift rise, with Mr Sprague slamming his ‘cocky attitude’.
The situation got worse when his unit investigated a handful of cases involving sham marrriages.
Mr Sprague said: “It was obvious there was serious organised criminal activity occurring.
“I had great difficulty in getting Buswell and Smith to show any interest. They begrudgingly allowed us to investigate some cases already known about, but they did not want new cases investigated.”
He was fired from his position in April 2009 following complaints over his conduct during the arrest of a man and woman allegedly involved in scam marriages.
The claims stated that Mr Sprague was ‘untidy, smelly and unkempt’, which he denied.
The compensation claim for unfair dismissal continues.