Five sent to prison over sham marriage racket

bride and groom, Pakistani Muhammad Usman and Slovakian Maria Racova, talking to police during an operation in Leeds

bride and groom, Pakistani Muhammad Usman and Slovakian Maria Racova, talking to police during an operation in Leeds

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FIVE men have been jailed for their part in a sham marriage ring in Yorkshire which saw Pakistani grooms recruit Slovakian brides in an attempt to remain in the UK.

The group systematically abused the marriage system in an attempt to dodge immigration rules after student visas which had gained four Pakistani men entry had expired or were expiring.

The scam was uncovered on March 28 this year when officers from the UK Border Agency Immigration Crime team interrupted a suspected sham marriage at Leeds Register Office in the Town Hall.

Kama Melly, prosecuting, told Leeds Crown Court yesterday that not only were the bride and groom, Slovak Maria Racova and Pakistani Muhammad Usman arrested but checks among their wedding guests revealed others involved in similar deceptions.

Pakistanis Farrukh Khan and Muhammed Mughal had already undertaken similar sham weddings in 2010 with Slovak sisters Zlatica and Ivana Holubova while another of the wedding party, Syed Gardezi had made an application to marry which was being processed.

Miss Melly said also arrested at the Racova sham wedding was Eva Facunova who was acting as the bride’s interpreter and Lukas Murgos, a Slovak who had contact with all the brides and had attended the previous two weddings.

Crib sheets were found in some cases to help the fake couples know details about their proposed partners but officials became suspicious about Racova and Usman because of their lack of interaction at an earlier interview.

Sentencing nine defendants involved in the ring, Judge James Spencer QC told them: “You each played your part in a most cynical scheme to evade the immigration legislation so that those who had no right to stay here might achieve permission to do so.

“You devised a dishonest scheme whereby you pretended to marry and thereby take advantage of the allowances for residence of married couples. You abused therefore the system of marriage, you abused also the law relating to immigration and as far as I can see you did it for economic purposes.”

Jailing Khan for two years three months and Murgos for two and a half years, Judge Spencer said he was satisfied Khan had devised the scheme after taking advantage of it first himself and then offering it to his compatriots while Murgos facilitated by recruiting the girls.

Khan, 24, of Hartman Place, Toller Lane, Bradford, admitted conspiracy to breach immigration law while Murgos, 23, of Brompton Road, East Bowling, Bradford, was found guilty of conspiracy by a jury.

Usman, 24, of Lambton Terrace, Harehills, Leeds, and Mughal, 32, of Hartman Place, Toller Lane, Bradford, who both admitted conspiracy were each jailed for 18 months. Gardezi, 21, of Lambton Terrace, Harehills, who was found guilty by the jury was jailed for 21 months.

Facunova, 32, of Vivian Place, Little Horton, Bradford, who was convicted by the jury was given 51 weeks in prison suspended for two years with 200 hours unpaid work.

Racova, 22, and Ivana Holubova, 24, both of Brompton Road, Bradford, admitted the conspiracy and were each given nine months prison sentences suspended for 12 months with 150 hours unpaid work. Zlatica Holubova, 29, a mother of three, also of Brompton Road, Bradford, who was found guilty by the jury was given a conditional discharge for 12 months.

Judge Spencer said he was satisfied the three “brides” were persuaded to do what they did when their circumstances were quite “dire” and advantage was taken in particular of Zlatica’s very low IQ.

The court heard Ivana Holubova admitted receiving £3,500 for her fake wedding which Nina Grahame representing her said she had spent on necessities for herself and her child.

After the case CPS lawyer Ed Hulbert said: “This was a brazen and cynical attempt to thwart the immigration law of the UK through marriages to EU nationals living here.”

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