Sham marriages exposed

A sham marriage racket was smashed when investigators foiled two fake weddings – and discovered the brides and grooms couldn’t understand a word each other was saying.

A sham marriage racket was smashed when investigators foiled two fake weddings – and discovered the brides and grooms couldn’t understand a word each other was saying.

Seven people have been given prison sentences for their involvement in the sham.

Two Lithuanian women were about to marry two Indian men in a bid to flout immigration laws so the men could continue living in Wolverhampton without fear of being sent home.

But their plan was foiled when UK Border Agency officers swooped on a register office in West Wales and found that one of the brides failed to even point out her prospective partner.

Mold Crown Court was told yesterday that 51-year-old Jaspal Sahota was the organiser of two fake ceremonies that were set to take place at Wrexham Register Office and that he was paid £7,000. The court was told he was a well-respected elder in his community and someone people could turn to for advice on immigration matters.

He and two Lithuanian men – 28-year-old Andres Stepanov and Antannas Beleckas, 27 – organised ceremonies for the two Indian men.

The court was told 29-year-old Manpreet Singh had approached Sahota after his working holiday visa in the UK expired while 21-year-old Jasbir Singh had gone to him because his student visa had run out.

Their brides to be – 27-year-old Oskana Alexsandraviciute and Sandra Beleckaite, 21 – were found by Stepanov and Beleckas.

The court was told they were both vulnerable women from poor backgrounds who came to Britain hoping for a better life and were free to live here as European residents.

The court heard UK Border Agency officials swooped on August 30 last year after they had been alerted by the registrar because of her suspicions during pre-marriage interviews with the “couples”.

There were inconsistencies and confusion during interview and false documentation had been provided, the court was told.

When the big day arrived officials were waiting nearby and moved in before the weddings were due to take place.

After being arrested, the fake brides insisted they had know the men for years and were in a full relationship but the grooms said that was not the case.

The court was told the two brides and two grooms did not understand conversation with each other and could only communicate via translators. When Border Agency officials asked one of the brides to point out her intended, she pointed to the wrong man.

Prosecutor Mr Wyn Lloyd Jones told the court: “They gave the impression that they were in a full sexual relationship but different versions were given by the two men.

They were caught out by their lies.”

Mr Lloyd Jones said that it was the vigilance of superintendent registrar Ruth Cooke at Wrexham which brought the matter to light. Alarm bells started ringing when she gave an appointment to one of the couples and then received a call purporting to be from the groom’s brother wanting the same appointment and a double wedding.

Judge Niclas Parry said that it was a serious conspiracy, aimed at cheating the immigration laws to ensure that two men could remain in the UK when they should not.

“Those who enter into sham marriages to frustrate the country’s immigration controls must expect sentences that deter others,” he added.

Dave Offside, from the UK Border Agency said: “The two grooms in this case saw sham marriage as a potential shortcut to a life in the UK, but they have ended up behind bars. The brides were prepared to marry people they barely know in exchange for cash and the others involved also stood to gain financially.”

The Indian men will be deported when they have served their sentences.

Sentences handed out to sham gang

Organiser Jaspal Sahota, of Finney Well Close, Bilston, jailed for 26 months.

Facilitator Andres Stepanov, of Crowther Road, Whitmore Reans, jailed for 16 months.

Facilitator Antannas Beleckas, of Osier Place, Heath Town, jailed for 15 months.

Bridegroom Manpreet Singh, of Dudley Road, Blakenhall, jailed for 12 months. Bridegroom Jasbir Singh, of Dudding Road, Wolverhampton, jailed for 11 months.

Brides Oskana Alexsandraviciute, of Dudley Road, Blakenhall, and Sandra Beleckaite, of Dudding Road, each got sentences of 304 days.

They were released yesterday having already served half of that sentence on remand awaiting court proceedings.