A UK Border Agency official who passed confidential information to her bogus lawyer boyfriend to swindle vulnerable immigrants out of tens of thousands of pounds today avoided jail.

Anjali Patel, 31, of Outram Road, Addiscombe, abused her position to supply Abdul Farooq, 28, with details of his clients' immigration statuses so they could con them out of cash to fund their gambling habits.

Farooq, of Barrow Road, Waddon, claimed to be an immigration lawyer and exploited sensitive data texted to him by Patel, then an executive director of UKBA's Case Resolution and Criminal Casework Directorate, to convince his victims.

He charged migrants from Bangladesh, Colombia and Pakistan who were "desperate" to secure leave to remain in the UK up to £13,000 for advice he was not qualified to provide.

The couple, who have since split up, were sentenced today at Croydon Crown Court today for the scam they presided over between 2010 and 2011.

Patel was handed a 16-month jail term, suspended for two years, after admitting two counts of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office at an early hearing in January.

Farooq, who pleaded guilty to two identical charges plus two counts of unlawfully providing immigration services, was jailed for 27 months.

Judge Nicholas Ainsley said: "As is very well-known, permission to stay in the UK and permission to work here are very valuable.

"People, once they are here legitimately, can become quite desperate to stay, because they will have, in many cases, family to look after.

"Such people, because they can become desperate, are of course vulnerable. They are vulnerable to being fleeced by unscrupulous people who say they can advise them when they can’t.

"In this case, that is precisely the course that you, Farooq, took by making people think that you could help them.

"In order to pass that particular confidence trick off you needed to have a certain amount of background knowledge, which you did possess, and background information, and you got that from your girlfriend, Patel."

The judge added: "It must have looked very impressive to them. It must have looked as though you were really on top of their operation."

Among the couple's victims was a Mamunar Rahman, a Bangladeshi national who paid £12,900 to Farooq in 2010 for help to obtain a work permit he never received.

Later that year, Colombian asylum-seeker Maria Garcia-Zuniga agreed to pay Farooq £2,000 in cash to "regularise" her immigration status.

She reported Farooq, then a law student at Brunel University, to the police when her work permit failed to materialise.

Mr Ainsley said Patel had acted "entirely improperly" but accepted the information she fed to Farooq could have been obtained legally by the immigrants he exploited.

The judge said: "But it was certainly highly confidential and it was certainly her duty to guard this information from unauthorised persons, because those persons could be swindlers. Of course in this case Farooq was, and Patel knew it."

He said Farooq had been the "prime mover" in the scam.

Julia Flanagan, in mitigation for Farooq, said he had done "a great deal of growing up" since he committed his crimes.

She added: "It is an old matter now and it is assessed that Mr Farooq's regret is genuine.

"He really is feeling the disgrace, the shame, that he is in court and has lived the last years of his life in and out of Croydon Crown Court with his case.

"For someone that thought he was a big man, he has fallen very low."

Farooq had managed to find work while on bail and had got invovled in politics.

His lawyer said: "He has worked volunteering for the Labour Party, of whom he is an enthusiastic supporter."