A NUMBER of the brides and grooms involved in what is believed to be the largest-ever wedding scam to be uncovered in Britain were Slovaks, the UK Embassy in Bratislava announced after news about the trial of principals in the marriage sham broke.
The Reverend Alex Brown, a Church of England vicar, was jailed along with two other men on September 6 for four years for staging hundreds of sham marriages between women from eastern European countries and men from west Africa.
Brown was found guilty of conspiring to facilitate breaches in immigration law along with two other men, Ukrainian national Vladymyr Buchak and lawyer Michael Adelasoye, following an eight-week trial that ended in late July.
Brown had earlier pleaded guilty to a charge of carrying out marriage ceremonies without the banns of matrimony being previously published, the British Embassy said.
An investigation by the UK Border Agency found that the trio were involved in up to 360 sham marriages at the Church of St Peter and St Paul in St Leonards-on-Sea in East Sussex, south-east England, between 2005 and 2009. Rev Brown officiated at all the ceremonies.
Most of the brides were women from eastern European countries who lived in Britain legally thanks to their countries’ membership in the European Union. The grooms were most often Nigerians who sought to settle in the UK. The TASR newswire reported that the brides were paid up to GBP3,000 (approximately €3,580) for each marriage.
The three were convicted on July 29. The jury was told during the trial how the vast majority of marriages conducted at the Ss Peter and Paul Church during the time that Rev Brown was pastor were organised with the aim of assisting applications for residency in the UK.
In some cases ceremonies were cancelled at short notice, only for the same person to return again with a different partner to “marry” just days later.
“Illegal immigration is big business,” said Damian Green, UK Minister for Immigration. “At home and abroad, we are tackling highly organised crime groups who make their living by trying to exploit the immigration system and breach our border security.”
Green stated this month that the UK Border Agency is intensively pursuing these organised crime groups in order to put the ringleaders before the courts and shut off the supply of illegal immigrants at source.
20. Sep 2010 at 0:00 | By Michaela Terenzani with press reports