An overseas student adviser is facing a possible jail term after being found guilty of providing illegal immigration advice.
Tony Otto was found guilty at Kingston Crown Court this week of providing immigration advice and services outside the legal regulatory framework.
Mr Otto of south London was found to be in contravention of the 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act, which makes it an offence to provide advice while not formally authorised by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner or designated body, or while not properly supervised by an OISC-authorised adviser.
Mr Otto, known also as Opwa Otto, will be sentenced early next year. The offence can attract a jail term of up to two years.
The court heard evidence from a Zimbabwean student from Thames Valley University, who had paid Mr Otto for advice, but had had none. Mr Otto was acquitted of any specific offence relating to this case, as no work had been undertaken, but the OISC confirmed that he had a number of students on his books.
It is an offence to provide immigration advice and services without registration with the OISC or a designated professional body such as the Law Society or Bar Council. The OISC was set up to regulate the immigration advice industry.
Mr Otto had claimed he was exempt from OISC authorisation under section 84 of the act, which allows advice to be given under the formal supervision of an authorised person. Mr Otto said he had been working under supervision from a barrister, but the jury rejected his claims. Since the events of last year, the barrister in question has been suspended by the Bar Council for unrelated activities.
The OISC declined to comment on the case until after sentencing. In an earlier interview with The THES, deputy commissioner Linda Allan said overseas students were vulnerable to unscrupulous advisers. "If any student believes they have been given bad advice, we would urge them to contact our office."