A COUPLE have been jailed for an immigration scam hatched to use their unborn baby to dishonestly claim the right to live in the UK.

Nigerian nationals Olutobi Ogunbawo and Maria Adesanya concocted a conspiracy to falsely register a British man as the father of their baby in the belief that this would eventually lead to them securing residency rights.

The duo had begun formulating their plans shortly after a then-pregnant Adesanya entered the UK on a visit visa in October 2013 ­— eventually settling in Bury.

Together they schemed to pay British citizen Adekunle Adeparusi from Kent to register as the baby’s father when it was born.

Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court heard that the couple exchanged a series of Facebook messages in which Ogunbawo discussed “making a plan abt my baby” and the cost of “securing (the child’s) stay” ­— stated to have been £3,000.

On the birth of the baby girl in December 2013, Adeparusi then registered himself as the father at Rochdale Register Office a few days later on January 14.

Adesanya later obtained a British passport for the child on the basis of this lie.

She also went on to apply for the right to remain in the UK, claiming that she was the sole carer for her daughter.

However, the application was rejected by an immigration judge at a tribunal.

Investigators first became suspicious of Adesanya in April 2015 after discovering she had been working illegally in care homes in late 2014.

Their enquiries uncovered that when her child had been conceived Adesanya had been in Nigeria, while the purported father was in Kent.

DNA tests later confirmed their suspicions that Adeparusi was not the father, and financial records showed that he had been transferred over £1,000 from Adesanya the day before they registered the birth.

Adeparusi later fraudulently claimed child tax credits by declaring to be the child’s primary carer, despite living in Gravesend, over 200 miles away from Bury ­— where the girl lived with her mother.

In December 2015 Ogunbawo entered the UK on a visit visa, which he overstayed. He also lied about about his personal circumstances in Nigeria on his visa application ­— an offence for which he was later charged.

His intentions never to return to Nigeria were revealed in text messages to Adesanya, sent before he entered the country.

Shortly after he arrived he started to work illegally using false references and a fake biometric residence permit.

The 38-year-old of Range Road, Gravesend, was jailed for three years at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court on November 5, after being found guilty of of assisting illegal migration and obtaining leave to remain by deception.

He had previously pleaded guilty to possession of a false document with intent and fraud by false representation.

At an earlier hearing Adesanya, of Cateaton Street, Bury, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to facilitate a breach of immigration law; fraudulently obtaining tax credits; making a false statement as to a birth; fraudulently making a representation to Her Majesty’s Passport Office and entering into a money laundering arrangement. She was jailed for 18 months.

Adeparusi, of Mulberry Road, Gravesend, was found guilty of the same offences on August 22 and sentenced to 33 months imprisonment.

Tony Hilton, from the Home Office’s Immigration Enforcement Criminal and Financial Investigations, said: “Ogunbawo, working with Adesanya and Adeparusi, was shown to have concocted a series of lies to try and cheat the UK’s immigration system. Ogunbawo saw an opportunity with Adesanya’s pregnancy and messages between the pair exposed the planning that went into the offence.

“My teams specialise in tackling immigration crime and those who abuse the system can expect to be brought before the courts.”