Islamabad, January 21, 2013 (PPI-OT): Eighteen members of a sham marriage gang that focused on South Yorkshire, UK, and stretched to Pakistan, have been jailed for a total of 27 years, nine months.
The gang staged fake wedding ceremonies in Pakistan in an attempt to get leave to remain in the UK for Pakistani nationals.
On 18 January, a UK Crown Court heard how the weddings took place over a two year period, with Pakistani nationals marrying Czech, Slovak and British brides and grooms. The bogus brides and grooms flew from the UK to Pakistan for the weddings which took place despite many of the couples not speaking the same language.
The gang were found out following an investigation carried out by the UK Border Agency which resulted in ten arrests in the north of the UK in February 2011. Over the next few months further UK arrests were made.
The UK Border Agency’s criminal and financial investigations team established that the gang worked with women from eastern Europe who came to the UK and were willing to marry Pakistani men living in Pakistan for a fee.
Pakistani nationals marrying EU nationals could potentially gain long-term residency rights in the UK as well as the right to work and claim benefits.
But the scam was stopped after UK Border Agency officers in the British High Commission in Islamabad noticed a large number of suspect visa applications from Pakistani nationals wanting to join their spouse or fiancée in the UK.
No Pakistani national involved in the scam was able to gain the right to enter or remain in the UK following the investigation by the UK Border Agency.
Following trials at a UK Crown Court in September and October 2012, 18 people were found guilty of conspiracy of attempting to breach immigration control.
Warrants for the arrests of two people who failed to attend trial have been issued. Two further Pakistani men were also given cautions for their involvement with the ring.
Immigration Minister Mark Harper said:
“This investigation shows that the UK Border Agency is taking strong action to crack down on sham marriages whether they take place in this country or overseas.
“Immigration crime is not victimless. It preys on some of society’s most vulnerable people and defrauds the taxpayer. The sentences handed out today send a clear message to anyone tempted to break immigration rules.”
The UK Border Agency crime directorate, said:
“This international crime group systematically abused the immigration system and showed a total disregard for the sanctity of marriage.
“Their criminal activity was well organised and carried out over a number of years across two continents. As a result of our investigation,these cynical criminals are now behind bars.”
For more information, contact:
British High Commission
Tel: +9251 201 2000
Cell: +92300 500 5306