A NORTH-EAST security boss was part of a major immigration scam which gave fresh identities to West Africans using refugee passports, Canterbury Crown Court was told yesterday (Tuesday, July 8).

Nigerian born Casmir Ekwuhga, 43, of Hope Gardens, Stockton, is charged with conspiring to break UK immigration laws by employing staff who he knew had false documents, conspiring to falsify documents, using a false document to obtain a driving licence, using a false document to obtain a National Insurance number, benefit and UK travel documents and fraud.

He denies all charges.

Before setting up business in Stockton he worked for self-styled Nigerian Prince Yilkes Bala, 53, of Beckenham, Kent, who is also charged with conspiring to break immigration laws, which he denies.

Simon Farrell QC, prosecuting, said Mr Bala got hold of genuine blue UK refugee passports from a corrupt Home Office official.

He ran a security company in Woolwich, London, employing Nigerian and Ghanaian people who were given false identities to stay in the country.

They were given new names and travel documents claiming they had escaped from war zones around the continent.

Mr Ekwuhga's documents said he came from the Congo Republic. Because they were issued from the Home Office they looked genuine.

It was only when the official was arrested that the Border Agency realised she had issued 210 fake passports - 29 of which went to Mr Bala's friends and relatives.

Mr Farrell said: "A large number of people came into the country and received new identities which entitled them to various benefits.

"They would work for Mr Bala illegally and would then be given a new identity. They could apply for National Insurance and other documents.

"Mr Ekwuhga applied for UK citizenship in his real name failing to admit he had been masquerading under another for several years."

The ring got away the passport scam for three years before it was uncovered.

Mr Farrell said: "The travel document was like a golden ticket - you could apply for official immigration status with it."

Before setting up Lion Security Services, Mr Ekwuhga was a director in one of Mr Bala's security companies.

He worked for Mr Bala illegally for a year before being given a new identity. He went on to be a trusted employee and was at the heart of the main company, Armour Security.

The case, which is expected to last five weeks, continues.