An illegal immigrant who claimed to be paralysed from the neck down but was filmed dancing at his wedding cheated more than £400,000 in benefits, a court heard yesterday.
But even though Mohamed Bouzalim, 37, has admitted dishonestly entering the country and fraudulently exploiting the welfare system, legal sources said they will face an ‘uphill battle’ to deport him.
There is a strong likelihood the Moroccan will be able to remain in the UK by claiming he has a right to family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, immigration sources said.
Cheat: Bouzalim raked in £66,000 a year of taxpayers money by claiming to be paralysed from the waist down - but video footage seized by the UK Border Agency shows him dancing vigorously at a wedding
When Bouzalim came to Britain in June 2001, he had no papers and claimed to be an Afghan national whose father had been executed by the Taliban, Isleworth Crown Court in west London was told.
Using the name Mohamed Amir Hussini, he successfully claimed asylum before constructing the extraordinary lie that he was paralysed and required 24-hour care, receiving £66,000 a year in benefits.
His total haul of around £400,000 was from Camden Council, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Independent Living Fund, the court heard.
The fraud ended when UK Border Agency staff raided his home in Kilburn, north London, last year.
In it, they found a video of Bouzalim performing energetic dance moves at his own wedding the previous year – miraculously without his wheelchair.
Bouzalim, who has been in custody for 18 months, has pleaded guilty to 11 charges of dishonesty.
His brothers Rachid, 35, and Abdallah, 39, and sister Zahra, are all on bail having also admitted fraud charges.
Disability aids he had received, including a wheelchair ramp, were still in their boxes at his home.
the Moroccan appeared in court sitting in a wheelchair, wearing glasses, a red shirt, grey tracksuit bottoms and black plimsolls. He had wild Afro-style hair and a straggly beard.
Accompanied by two nurses, he appeared to struggle to raise his arm and speak when asked if he was present by the court clerk. However Judge Simon Oliver cast doubt on defence claims he was unwell, referring to a psychiatric report from the medium-secure unit in Southall, west London, where he is being held.
‘He is described as a malingerer,’ the judge said, adding from the report: ‘A person who deliberately pretends to have illness or disability in order to obtain gain or otherwise evade responsibility.’
The judge ordered that Bouzalim’s legal team produce a diagnosis from a consultant if they wished to contradict the assessment.
The court heard Bouzalim had a degree in Sharia Law from a university in his home country and in 2000 studied Farsi at university in Iran.
He also obtained an MA from London Metropolitan University in 2008, writing his thesis on ‘The Clash of Soft Powers in Sino-American Competition over Africa’.
Despite his impressive academic achievements, it was claimed that he would be unable to understand proceedings in English and needed a Berber interpreter who, despite being booked weeks in advance, was on holiday.
As there are only three such interpreters working in London, it was impossible to replace him at short notice, the court heard.
Judge Oliver adjourned sentence to November 25, saying the delay was ‘a great inconvenience to all’, but adding: ’Mr Bouzalim needs to understand fully what he has done and what the consequences of his actions are.’