Several Slovaks arrested in UK for sham marriage scheme

On 4 October The Daily reported a case of a Slovak woman being arrested for a sham marriage to a Pakistani citizen, but it seems that it was literally just the tip of the iceberg as UK police have caught some big fish in this lucrative form of immigration fraud.

Going by the codename of Operation Razorback, this morning the police in Britain shut down an international sham marriage gang spanning the United Kingdom to Pakistan. The series of co-ordinated raids saw ten people arrested for their part in organising fake brides for foreigners trying to get into the UK.

The UK Border Agency’s specialist Immigration Crime Team were behind today’s arrests and, with assistance from South Yorkshire Police, they made multiple strikes to addresses in and around Rotherham and Manchester, England.

Operation Razorback is the largest of its kind to date conducted by the UK Border Agency’s Immigration Crime Team in the region, and is designed to apprehend the gang leaders and organisers as well as their would-be brides.

The operation saw officers swoop on Pakistani, Czech and Slovak gang members in their homes shortly after 7.30am. It is believed that women from the Czech Republic and Slovakia were travelling to the UK and offering themselves – at a price – as brides for would-be migrants.

Unlike previous sham marriages, the grooms are not in the UK but based in Pakistan. Their brides would fly out to get married and then return, submitting an application for their husbands to come and join them in the UK. Officers suspect that the gang thought this less direct route would be more inconspicuous than attempting to marry in the UK.

A sham marriage typically occurs when a non-European national marries someone from the European Economic Area, including the UK, as a means of attempting to gain long-term residency and the right to work and claim benefits.

Those arrested this morning included:
•    One Pakistani man aged 25;
•    One Pakistani woman aged 25;
•    One Slovak male aged 19; and,
•    Seven Czech and Slovak women aged between 21 and 36

All are being kept in detention for questioning, while the investigation continues.

Detective Sergeant Alisdair Duncan from the UK Border Agency Immigration Crime Team leading the operation said:
“Today we arrested several suspects who we believe are part of an organised crime group and who have played a pivotal role in attempting to breach immigration law and in assisting others to do so”.

DS Duncan explained: “We believe we have cracked an organised conspiracy in which marriage fixers and Czech and Slovak brides were making money from Pakistani grooms desperate to find a way to stay in the UK. Anyone trying to benefit illegally from the privileges of life in the UK faces prison and deportation.”

Jeremy Oppenheim, Regional Director for the UK Border Agency in the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber, welcomed the arrests: “We will not tolerate immigration abuse and will punish those who break immigration laws. Our aim isn’t just to prevent illegal migration, but also to identify and take out those criminals behind these immigration scams. As today’s arrests show, our dedicated Immigration Crime Teams are well adept at keeping in step with ever more sophisticated criminal enterprises.

The UK Border Agency conducts robust checks on visa applications to ensure only genuine applications are successful. All its visa officers  are trained in forgery detection. Those found using fraudulent documentation or attempting deception will be refused a visa and face a ban on entering the UK for up to ten years.

All visa holders arriving at the UK border are subject to further checks by an immigration officer. The officer must be satisfied there has been no change of purpose or change in circumstances since the visa was issued, or that deception or false misrepresentations were not made to obtain the visa.  Where the immigration officer is not satisfied, the individual will be refused entry to the United Kingdom. Source: British Embassy

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