Solicitor knew of legal citizenship requirement

A HONG Kong solicitor yesterday told a London jury he knew the legal requirement for obtaining British citizenship was to have lived in the UK for 10 years, but said barrister Paul Samrai convinced him the law was 'discretionary'.

On the second day of a video conference link to question witnesses in Hong Kong from London's Chancery Lane, Ivan Shun, 30, said he was introduced to immigration specialist Samrai by a family friend.

Samrai, 37, ran the Hong Kong office of Opportunities UK. The agency allegedly duped some of the territory's most prominent people into believing they could live legally in Britain.

A number of British passports were issued after Samrai and London-based solicitor James Walker allegedly fooled the Home Office with forged documents and false information regarding their clients.

Walker, 48, denies five charges of conspiracy to defraud the Home Office between June 1990 and September 1992. Samrai has pleaded guilty to one conspiracy charge.

Mr Shun, who spent time in the UK studying law, agreed with prosecutor Brendan Finucane that he was 'under the impression' that a requirement for citizenship was to have lived in the UK for 10 years.

'But I was led to believe there was discretion about this matter and that Samrai was 99 per cent certain I would get residence,' Mr Shun said.

He paid $100,000 and signed blank application forms and in 1991 obtained indefinite leave to remain in Britain.

Samrai then suggested he obtain a British passport to qualify for full citizenship and again Mr Shun signed blank forms.

The application was later found to have indicated Mr Shun spent time studying at an English school which he had never attended and that he was an international lawyer who needed a duplicate passport to travel to trouble spots in the world.

Under cross examination by Richard Ferguson QC, defending Walker, Mr Shun claimed he had read the blank passport application 'only minimally'.

Constance Ho, a shipping company director, gave video evidence saying she and her mother, Irene Hu, were recommended to Samrai by their doctor. Their $50,000 applications were halted by police.

The hearing continues.