UK spouse visa sham racket broken

23 Jan 2013 | Posted by Carl Thomas

An organised crime gang that focused on illegally providing UK spouse visas has been broken up by the UK Border Agency (UKBA).

A total of 18 members of the sham marriage gang have now been jailed for more than 27 years for their actions.

The gang was focused in South Yorkshire but its influence stretched across to Pakistan where it staged fake wedding ceremonies in an attempt to get Pakistani nationals leave to remain in the UK.

Among the nationalities to have taken place in the bogus weddings to help Pakistanis gain access to Britain were Czechs, Slovaks and British people. The weddings themselves took place in Pakistan before the 'couple' flew back to Britain. According to reports, the group had hoped to reduce the risk of detection by holding the ceremonies in Pakistan, but officers from the British High Commission in Islamabad noticed a significant number of suspect visa applications from Pakistani nationals looking to join their spouse or fiancée in Britain and kicked off the inquiry.

Immigration minister Mark Harper commented: "This investigation shows that the UKBA 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. We have the resources, expertise and technology to catch you, and you will pay with your liberty."

The investigation initially cracked the ring back in February of 2011 when arrests were made in Rotherham, Bradford and Sheffield. Criminal and financial investigations teams then worked to establish connections between the gang and women from eastern Europe who were willing to come to Britain and marry men living in Pakistan for a price.