A SHAM marriage organiser who led a “huge” new immigration scam to allow Pakistani men to live in the UK was yesterday jailed for six years.
Father-of five Talib Hussain was at the hub of a gang which flew more than 20 Czech, Slovak and British brides to Pakistan to “marry” Asian men who paid the organisers considerable sums of money.
He was among 17 gang members who were jailed for a total of 27 years and eight months at Sheffield Crown Court including nine fake brides – four Czech, four British Asian and a Slovak.
Judge Rosalind Coe told them deterrent sentences were needed as the scam “struck at the heart of the British immigration system”.
She said: “Participating in sham marriages is a very serious matter. It is an abuse of the marriage ceremony itself and an abuse of the immigration system.”
Many of the “brides” involved, some of whom were already married or single mothers were preyed upon by the Rotherham-based gang who paid for their flights from the UK and gave them £300 each.
As overseas nationals the Pakistanis would have been granted leave to live in the UK as husbands of their spouses who as EU citizens have the right to live and work here.
The scam came to light when staff at the British High Commission in Islamabad noticed large numbers of documents in support of marriage applications were forged. None of the bogus applications were granted.
A total of 18 men and women were convicted of either conspiring to breach the UK’s immigration laws or assisting unlawful immigration between August, 2009 and September, 2010.
Prosecutor Sarah Wright said 62 fraudulent visa applications were traced to 32 addresses in the UK and the trail of false documents led to 27 Broom Grove, Rotherham where Hussain, 42, lived.
Ms Wright said the address was the “engine room” of the conspiracy with Talib Hussain at its hub and many of the forged documents originated here.
Ms Wright said Hussain, who owns a large property in Pakistan, was charging “considerable sums” to Pakistani nationals who wanted to live in the UK.
The court heard that many of the brides were desperate for cash. Sabina Khan, 46, a single mother of three girls in the UK and a part-time lunchtime supervisor at a primary school was paid £300 to undergo a sham marriage in Pakistan.
Nadia Qureshi, 28, described as “timid and inoffensive”, flew out twice to Pakistan for fake ceremonies and on the first occasion was pregnant with her son.
Michaela Lengyelova, 30, tried to look genuinely enthusiastic for her “wedding” photos and smiled broadly while Kristina Popikova, 34, wore Pakistani clothes and posed on a bed with the bridegroom for pictures.
Judge Coe said the brides clearly had no intention of living with their bridegrooms in genuine and settled relationships and they were sham marriages for immigration purposes and small financial gain to the women.
“This was a very large, well-organised and professional operation involving very many people,” she said. “At the hub and running the operation was Talib Hussain assisted by others including his former wife.”
After the hearing, Mark Bates of 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.”