Five people have been arrested on suspicion of staging a sham wedding ceremony in Coleraine.
UKBA officers interrupted the suspected sham wedding between a Sri Lankan woman and British citizen at Coleraine Borough council offices on Friday 23rd November.
Achala Udeshika Bandara Wijekoon Mudiyanselage, 24, blimey I thought there was only one woman involved not a harem, anyway I digress she appeared before Coleraine magistrates court on 26th November charged with seeking to obtain leave to remain in the UK by deception. She was remanded in custody to re-appear at the same court by video link on Monday 3rd December.
The would-be groom and two others who were acting as witnesses were released on bail to appear at Coleraine magistrates court on 19th December; won’t see them again. A fifth man who was arrested after the event was released on police bail, nor him.
Also in Ireland
In this instance officers arrested Vaskar Khan, 44, at an address on Carlton Street, Portadown in February 2012 and also seized passports, bank cards, and two false Portuguese identity cards found during a search of the premises.
Khan and his wife Monica Fernandez Batalha, 31, were interviewed by officers on 24th February when it became clear that they did not speak a common language and could not answer questions about their relationship despite being married for over four years.
Airline tickets were also discovered that showed Batalha had only flown back to the UK from Portugal, where she lives, on 20th February just days before their interview with Border Agency officers. Batalha later admitted that she had received £3,000 to marry Khan in a marriage that took place in the Republic of Ireland.
At Craigavon crown court, on Friday 23rd November Khan was sentenced to 10 months imprisonment for seeking to obtain leave to remain in the UK by deception and two charges of possessing false identity cards. He was released as he had been on remand since his arrest but was then taken into detention while steps are taken to remove him from the UK.
Batalha was sentenced to 15 months, suspended for 3 years for assisting unlawful immigration and has returned to Portugal. Hmmm, so she got off prison and got a free ride home.
Church of Sham Marriages
A Church of England Minister who officiated at more than 100 sham marriages at an east London church has been ordered to hand over £10,792 in criminal proceeds.
Reverend Brian Shipsides, aged 56, of Claremont Road in Forest Gate, carried out the weddings involving west African migrants at the All Saints Church in Forest Gate between December 2007 and July 2010.
He was arrested in August 2010 following an investigation into a number of suspicious ceremonies at the church.
A judge at Inner London Crown Court sentenced Shipsides to 4½ years imprisonment in April 2012. On Friday 23rd November a judge sitting at the same court ruled that the value of Shipsides’ criminal conduct was £29,382. Apparently he was charging £140 a ‘pop’.
Shipsides was suspended by the Diocese of Chelmsford following his arrest, but owing to his failure to declare income that ought to have been declared to the diocese, continued to receive a stipend until his removal from post in May 2012.
This stipend was not paid in full but reduced in that period by £18,589 to go some way to recovering wedding fees he had retained, but not declared as such to The Diocese. A reverend on the ‘hey diddle diddle’ eh?
Under Proceeds of Crime Act legislation the judge ordered Shipsides pay the balance of £10,792 to the court within the next 6 months or face a further 6 months imprisonment.
When officers examined the marriage registers at All Saints, they found that around 250 weddings had taken place at the church in the preceding 2½ years. The vast majority involved Nigerian nationals marrying European nationals, predominantly Portuguese or Dutch. Prior to December 2007 there had been just 15 weddings in the same time period.
Shipsides admitted a charge of conspiring to facilitate breaches of immigration law. His co-defendant, Nigerian wedding ‘fixer’ Amudalat Ladipo, aged 32, of Chenappa Close in Plaistow, was convicted of the same offence and an additional charge of possessing a false ID document in February and sentenced to 3 years imprisonment.
From sham marriages to people smuggling.
Eight people have been arrested as part of a major international investigation into a suspected organised crime gang involved in people smuggling. The operation saw early morning raids on a number of addresses in London on Monday 26th November and 27th November at an address in Hull.
The arrests were the culmination of a joint investigation with the Spanish Guardia Civil into an alleged criminal network suspected of assisting Iranian migrants to reach the UK from mainland Europe.
The investigation also involved a network of officers stationed abroad and the assistance of the airlines involved. The network are alleged to have organised travel and provided false documents to their clients to facilitate their arrival at UK airports.
Those arrested are all aged between 23 and 56. In addition computers, documents and mobile phones were seized from a number of addresses and will now be examined.
Co-ordinated action by the Guardia Civil saw 11 people arrested during raids in Madrid and Alicante in Spain.
Those arrested in the UK were:
56-year-old male at an address in Engel Park, Mill Hill, London;
29-year-old male at a second address in Engel Park, Mill Hill, London;
23-year-old female at the second address in Engel Park, Mill Hill, London;
23-year-old male at the second address in Engel Park, Mill Hill, London;
46-year-old male at an address in Kensington, London;
38-year-old male at an address in Peacock Close, Mill Hill, London;
44-year-old-male at an address in Edgware, London.
46-year-old male at an address in Spring Bank, Hull.
All were arrested on suspicion of conspiring to facilitate an asylum seeker for gain and are now being questioned at police stations in London.