A COUPLE were jailed yesterday after ignoring warnings they faced arrest if they went ahead with a sham marriage.
Investigators found a crib sheet with details of Pakistani bridegroom Tahir Naqqash’s bride-to-be after the wedding at Bradford’s register office was interrupted by officers from the UK Border Agency in May last year.
They attended even though officers had visited Slovak bride Zlatica Balogova the night before and told her she faced arrest if she went ahead amid suspicions about the ceremony.
Neither couple could speak a common language but had attempted to fool the authorities they were genuine. Balogova was living with her partner and four children but was due to receive £3,000 for the marriage.
Yesterday at Leeds Crown Court, Naqqash, 26, of Carlisle Road, Manningham, Bradford, was jailed for eight months after he pleading guilty to conspiracy to breach immigration law and perjury shortly before the case was due to go to trial in March.
All other members of the gang denied the charge but had been found guilty by a jury at Bradford Crown Court.
Balogova, 29, of Prospect Road, Wapping, Bradford, was jailed for 10 months after jurors refused to believe her claims she was marrying for love not money.
Three others involved were also sentenced including her partner Elemer Danihel, 30, who was given six months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, and 200 hours community service.
Slovakian father-of-eight Ervin Lakatos, 43, of Stanacre Place, Wapping, was jailed for six months.
His partner Natasa Cicuova, 33, was given four months, suspended for 12 months, with a medium level activity requirement of up to 30 days with the probation service.
Both were due to be witnesses at the wedding.
Judge Christopher Batty told the court Naqqash had come to the UK in 2008 on a student visa.
He had attended three different colleges but it appeared this was to fulfil the terms of the visa rather than secure an education and he also carried out paid work beyond the limit of the permit.
In 2010, a cousin who had successfully taken part in a sham wedding advised him he could also secure a residence permit by doing the same.
Through him, he had contacted a man “involved in procuring false marriages in the Bradford area” who was given downpayment of £2,000 through relatives in Pakistan. He selected Balogova who was “one of the UK nationals that he effectively had on his books” to be a prospective wife.
He said the couple obtained a false address provided by Lakatos, a Yorkshire Water account and a joint bank account.
They met from time to time “in order to continue the charade” and posed in photographs over two separate days to show evidence of the romance. Her partner Danihel attended the register office to interpret at an interview.
But Judge Batty said Naqqash and Balogova were “not up to the task”, giving different details about each other and failing to interact, prompting a call to the authorities. Officers visited four of the gang the evening before the wedding. He said: “They told each of you of their suspicions and warned you that if you were to attend the register office to go through with this sham ceremony, you would be arrested. None of you were deterred, confident as you must have been of bluffing your way through this.” Naqqash had eventually admitted his guilt and gave evidence against his co-conspirators. “The rest of you brazened it out and told your ridiculous lies,” he said. “What you were all involved in was a highly organised and determined bid to frustrate the immigration laws of this country.”