London: Nineteen people were arrested today in a series of raids targeting a suspected immigration scam where people are allegedly brought to the UK from India as Sikh religious preachers and then disappear.

Sixteen addresses across the UK were raided as part of an ongoing investigation into Manchester-based Khalsa Missionary Society, a Sikh religious and cultural centre, the Birmingham mail reported.

Ten people were arrested on suspicion of obtaining leave by deception during the early morning swoops in a Home Office, or interior ministry, investigation that was supported by officers from the National Crime Agency, it said.

They are being questioned at police stations across the UK, and all the addresses are being searched.

Addresses are now also being searched in Birmingham, Slough, Southall, Southampton, Luton, Hounslow and Leicester.

The probe is focused on the sponsoring of Indians to work at the society as Ministers of Religion, under the Tier 2 and Tier 5 migrant workers system, the Birmingham mail reported.

A further nine people were arrested for immigration offences, including overstaying their visas, it said.

Three separate cash seizures were also made.

"This is a complex large scale operation linked to suspected immigration crime that targeted several locations across the UK," said Nick Wood, from the Home Office Criminal Investigations team.

"Our investigation will continue with the evidence we have seized."

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