A ringleader of the Rochdale grooming gang avoided being deported despite being told his UK citizenship would be stripped.
Abdul Aziz, dubbed ‘The Master’ by his gang, lost a Court of Appeal hearing in 2018 that meant he could have his citizenship taken away. That would have been the first step before deporting the 51 year-old to Pakistan.
However, four years later it has emerged Aziz was told by the Home Office he would not in fact lose his citizenship and was allowed to remain in the UK.
That is now being used as a legal argument to allow two other convicted gang members to stay in the country too.
Aziz, Adil Khan, 51, and Qari Abdul Rauf, 52, were among nine gang members jailed in 2012 for a catalogue of child sex offences in Rochdale.
All three were liable to be deprived of UK citizenship and deported as they also held Pakistani nationality, and then-home secretary Theresa May ruled it would be “conducive to the public good”.
Since release from jail they have fought a long legal battle against deportation, mounting multiple legal challenges and appeals, spanning several years, on the grounds that deportation would interfere with their human rights.
As Rauf and Khan continued their appeal against deportation at an Immigration Tribunal, it emerged Aziz had already been told he will not be stripped of his UK citizenship and deported.
Aziz had renounced his Pakistani citizenship on July 13, 2018, six years after he was jailed, but just days before the Court of Appeal ruled he could be deprived of his UK citizenship.
Rauf and Khan only renounced their Pakistani citizenship in September of the same year after the Court of Appeal ruling.
Lawyers for Rauf, who is legally aided, said the law demands consistency of treatment and although Rauf could regain his Pakistani nationality simply by signing a form, he refuses to do so because he does not want to be deported.
Khan told the hearing, “I have a question for the Home Secretary, whether Mr Aziz was an angel and I am a devil?”
Aziz was jailed for nine years in 2012, for conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with a child by penetrative sex and trafficking for sexual exploitation of a 15-year-old girl.
He took his victim to flats in Rochdale where she was plied with vodka and drugs and coerced into sex with gangs of men in return for payment to him.
Rauf’s lawyers also said deportation would be a breach under articles of the European Convention on Human Rights, arising out of their individual circumstances relating to their private and family life.
Khan, then in his 40s, impregnated one girl, refusing to accept the child was his until a DNA test was done. He then met the other girl he trafficked to others for sex, using violence when she objected.
Rauf, a father-of-five, trafficked a 15-year-old girl for sex, driving her to secluded areas to have sex with her in his taxi and ferrying her to a flat in Rochdale where he and others had sex with her.
The hearing was adjourned with a decision on deportation expected later this year.
Additional reporting by PA