Groom-to-be in sham marriage con is jailed

An Afghan national who paid a corrupt paralegal £2,500 to fake a common law marriage so he could stay in this country has been jailed for eight months.

Vera Horvatova who lived in Wolverhampton, and right, Mohammed Akhtar.
Vera Horvatova who lived in Wolverhampton, and right, Mohammed Akhtar.

Attaullan Gul tried to stay in the UK illegally by claiming to be in an intimate relationship with 53-year-old Czech woman, Vera Horvatova who lived in Wolverhampton. The pair did not know each other.

The bogus arrangement was part of a sham marriage scam that was smashed when Home Office officials and police swooped to stop a ceremony from taking place at the city's Register Office. This happened before Gul’s application had officially been submitted by Mohammed Akhtar, the paralegal behind the racket, Wolverhampton Crown Court heard.

The mastermind was among the witnesses at the disrupted bogus ceremony and was detained at the scene, explained Mr Marcus Kraehling-Smith, prosecuting. A search of his Dunstall Road home unearthed paperwork outlining the money-spinning fraud that included the plan for Gul to claim he was in an intimate relationship with Horvatova, a neighbour of Akhtar

Akhtar organised sham unions between women from Europe legally living in this country and men from the Indian sub continent who paid substantial fees for the arrangements, which would allow them to apply for long-term residency in the UK together with the right to work and claim benefits.

Gul had entered the country under a student visa but remained illegally after it expired on October 22, 2012. He was arrested on April 28 after handing himself in to Immigration Enforcement officials

Mr Nicholas Cooper, defending, said: "He paid a man he thought was a solicitor £2,500 to help him make and prepare the application but nothing happened. He even wrote to his MP asking for the status of his application and was told the Home Office did not even have a record of the application. He wanted to better himself."

Gul, of no fixed address, admitted conspiracy to breach immigration laws between October 2012 and April 2014 and was sent to prison by Judge Michael Challinor who told him: "This was a sophisticated criminal activity to make money or to allow people to continue to live in this country. Complex arrangements were made including staged photographs. It was a serious conspiracy.

"Yours was a limited role but you knew your permission to stay in this country had come to an end and were prepared to represent that you were in a partnership in an effort to change that. You were assisted by Mohammed Akhtar in doing this and were defrauded out of quite a lot of money."

Horvatova was locked up for three years and Akhtar was jailed for five years at an earlier hearing which heard how the pair played key roles in the recruitment of EU citizens who either agreed to enter into a sham marriage or pretended to be in a relationship, enabling a foreign national to stay in the UK. Gul is likely to be deported after completing his sentence.

Akhtar set up the bogus wedding ceremonies, often providing registrars with fake photographs of the 'loving' couple together and bogus letters of approval from parents.

But the authorities cottoned on to the scam after being notified of a suspicious marriage between a 'couple' - who could not speak the same language - at Wolverhampton Register Office.