Jail term for pair in sham marriage dodge

A COUPLE who admitted entering into a sham marriage so that the bridegroom could dodge immigration rules were both jailed at Sheffield Crown Court yesterday.

Pakistani national Muhammad Shahzad, 29, married 35-year-old Marcela Kacmarcikova from the Czech Republic at Sheffield Registry Office in March this year.

The pair, who do not speak the same language and had never lived together, both pleaded guilty to attempting to breach immigration rules by deception.

Sheffield Crown Court heard how Shahzad had initially entered the country on a visitor visa in 2008 but would have had to leave in December this year.

An investigation by the UK Border Agency showed that he had married in Pakistan in 2007, while his bride had been married in her home country since 1993.

The investigation revealed that the couple had not been living together in Malvern Road, Sheffield, as claimed on their marriage documents. In reality, Shahzad had been living at this address with his brother, while Kacmarcikova was living with another man and her children in Abbeyhills Road in Oldham.

The marriage was therefore believed to be an attempt to pervert immigration rules and provide a basis to make an application to stay in the UK after Shahzad's visa had expired. They were then arrested in June.

Shahzad was sentenced to 12 months in prison and Kacmarcikova received a three-month sentence, after both admitting one count of assisting unlawful immigration.

Jeremy Oppenheim, regional director for the UK Border Agency in the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber, said: "We take abuse of the system very seriously. A marriage certificate alone does not give foreign nationals the right to live and work in the UK. Their relationship has to be genuine, otherwise they face prosecution or removal from the UK.

"Where there is evidence to suggest a wedding may not be genuine we will investigate and bring those involved to justice."

Det Chief Insp Dave Powell, from the UK Border Agency's Yorkshire Immigration Crime Team, added: "Today's case sends out a clear message to those thinking of undertaking sham marriages in order to gain entry to the UK.

"We have specialist teams of immigration officers and police working to investigate cases just like this to ensure people are not able to benefit from breaking the UK's immigration laws."