A London ‘couple’ who flew in European brides as part of an immigration scam enabling Bangladeshi men obtain indefinite leave to remain in the UK illegally have been jailed for a total of 6 years, the UK Border Agency has confirmed.
Mohammed Tanin, a 26-year-old Bangladeshi, and Maria Marques, a 47-year-old Portuguese, were arrested at their home in Willis Street, Tower Hamlets, in March 2011 by our officers. Both were convicted at Snaresbrook Crown Court on 7 December following a 15-day trial, and sentenced at the same court today – Tanin to 4 years to run concurrently and Marques to 2 years.
The pair first came to the attention of investigators after their names appeared in a notebook belonging to a West Midlands man convicted of running a sham marriage ring. Both had married at the Registry Office, Bow Church, in November 2009 prompting further investigation.
The couple had been stopped by our officers on their arrival at Luton Airport in June 2010, after they were found travelling with several Portuguese women whose travel documents they were carrying. Later enquiries showed that Tanin had paid for the flights and all were allowed to enter the UK.
Over an 18-day period in July 2010 the we received certificate of approval applications for 4 Bangladeshi men in the UK on valid student visas to marry 4 of the Portuguese women. This is the first stage that could have enabled the Bangladeshis to apply to remain in the UK once their current visas expired.
Eventually the men would have been able to apply for UK naturalisation and a British passport based on the sham marriages.
The agency’s north and east London criminal and financial investigation team acted quickly and arrested all 4 Bangladeshi men who made full admissions implicating Tanin and Marques, admitting they’d paid varying amounts of between £2,000 and £3,000 to facilitate their fraudulent applications. Forensic examination linked Tanin to each application. The 4 would later appear as witnesses in Marques and Tanin’s trial.
When Tanin and Marques were arrested officers seized evidence showing Tanin attempted to develop a ‘legend’ for each of the ‘brides to be’ with forged documentation and payments into individual bank accounts. He attempted to create the false impression that each was working at an Indian Restaurant in Orpington, adding authenticity to the fraudulent applications.
Giving evidence in the trial the restaurant manager said Tanin had been employed as a temporary delivery driver and that none of the Portuguese brides ever worked for him. He confirmed that the paperwork created by Tanin purporting to be issued by his restaurant was false and did not match with records.
Supporting documents further incriminating Tanin were found when officers examined his laptop. Both he and Marques were charged with conspiracy to facilitate a breach of UK Immigration law.
Two Portuguese ‘brides’ arrested in connection with the operation were both charged with conspiring with Tanin and Marques to facilitate breaches of immigration law and sentenced to 14 days each at the same court today.
The 2 remaining ‘brides’ have not been traced and are believed to have returned to Portugal.
Atiq Haque, north and east London criminal and financial investigation team, UK Border Agency said:
‘Tanin and Marques were at the heart of this scam and used money to lure these women into marrying men they had never met.
‘This case shows the desperate nature of immigration crime with large sums of money changing hands and people being prepared to enter into a full marriage with someone they barely know simply to cheat the immigration system.
‘The UK Border Agency will not tolerate immigration abuse, and we are cracking down on sham marriages all over the country. As the sentences handed out today shows, those who seek to cheat immigration laws face heavy penalties.’
The north and east London criminal and financial investigation team is a specialist unit of seconded police officers from the Metropolitan Police Service working alongside warranted UK Border Agency officers to investigate organised immigration crime.
The agency said that anyone who has information about suspicious marriages or other forms of immigration abuse should contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 where anonymity can be assured. Source: UK Border Agency.
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