The Daily Mail reports that a father-of-five who masterminded a massive international sham marriage operation from his suburban family home was jailed for six years.
Immigrant Talib Hussain, 42, was the ring-leader of a gang that flew Eastern European women to Islamabad for bogus weddings with Pakistani men, who could then apply to live in the UK under European open borders laws.
The scam – which Hussain orchestrated with the help of his ex-wife from his home in Rotherham, South Yorkshire – ‘struck at the heart of the British immigration system’, said a judge, as she sentenced 17 members of the gang for a combined total of more than 27 years at Sheffield Crown Court.
Over 60 applications for UK visas were submitted to authorities, accompanied by fake documents and photos of the bogus weddings to European women who were paid to marry the men.
The UK Border Agency became suspicious when they noticed the same people appeared in many of the photos – and the same clothes were being swapped between brides, grooms and guests.
Today, Judge Rosalind Coe QC jailed Hussain, saying he was the ‘hub’ of the operation and his house in Rotherham was the ‘engine room’.
Judge Coe said: ‘This was a very large, well organised, professional operation involving very many people.
‘At the very hub of this conspiracy and running the operation was Talib Hussain and others.’
Seventeen members of the gang were jailed for a total of 27 years and eight months at Sheffield Crown Court including nine fake brides – four Czech, four British Asian and a Slovak.
Judge Coe told them deterrent sentences were needed as the scam ‘struck at the heart of the British immigration system.’
She said: ‘Participating in sham marriages is a very serious matter. It is an abuse of the marriage ceremony itself and an abuse of the immigration system.’
The court had heard how Eva Holubova, 19, flew to Pakistan with her boyfriend, also 19, to take part in fake marriage ceremonies and was ‘married’ three times in the space of four months.
She told police Pakistani men offered her £250 for photos to pretend they were married so they could get visas to go to the UK.
Her boyfriend Peter Pohodko, from Slovakia, also took part in the scam and was paid £300 for ‘marrying’ a 28-year-old Pakistani woman he claimed to have met on his wedding day.
The phoney weddings were staged in Pakistan with ‘brides’ posing with their ‘grooms’ for photographs suggesting that they had got married.
One woman returned to the UK with £1,000 in her bag while another who went through a sham marriage already had a husband in the UK.
As overseas nationals, the Pakistanis would have been granted leave to live in the UK as ‘husbands’ of their spouses who, as EU citizens had the right to live and work in the country.
The scam was discovered by staff at the British High Commission in Islamabad when they noticed the multiple documents supporting applications to marry and to settle in the UK were forged.
Immigration officers discovered the sham weddings took place in various private homes throughout the Mirpur district in the south-west of the Kashmir region. The ceremonies often married within hours or a few days of meeting one another.
Operation Razorback led to 18 men and women being convicted after trial or admitting conspiring to breach the UK’s immigration laws or assisting unlawful immigration between August, 2009 and September, 2010.
Prosecutor Sarah Wright told Sheffield Crown Court it was a sophisticated conspiracy. She said: ‘This was a huge, well-organised and professional operation.’
She said the brides had no intention of living in ‘settled and genuine relationships’ with the men and the sham marriages were clearly undertaken for immigration purposes.
Talib Hussain, of Rotherham, was jailed for six years and Zaman, also of Rotherham, was jailed for two-and-a-half years. They both admitted conspiracy to breach the UK’s immigration laws.
Mohammed Ramzan, of Rotherham was jailed for three years and Aftab Hussain, 36, of Tinsley, for two years after admitting the same offence.
Eva Holubova, now 19, was given ten months in a young offenders institution and her boyfriend Peter Pohlodko, 19, both of Rotherham, got 21 months in a young offenders’ institution after they were both convicted of conspiracy to breach the UK’s immigration laws after a trial.
Sabina Khan, of Bradford, was jailed for eight months, Khalda Ahmed, 45, of Rotherham, got a seven-month jail term suspended for a year and Nadia Qureshi, of Sheffield, was jailed for six months after all three admitted assisting unlawful immigration to a member state.
Veronika Pohlodkova, 36, and Zuzana Holubova, 26, Kristina Popikova, 34, and Michaela Yengyelova, 30, all of Rotherham, admitted conspiracy to breach the UK’s immigration laws.
Pohlodkova, who recruited the brides, was jailed for four years, Holubova for seven months, Popikova for 12 months and Yengyelova for 11 months.
Nikola Horvathova, 25, of Tinsley, was found guilty of the same offence after a trial and jailed for 12 months.
Svetlana Krausova, 31, of Tinsley, Farah Khan, 43, of Bradford, Louise Kelly, 27, of Bradford, and Mohammed Yasser, 22, of Bradford, all admitted assisting unlawful immigration to a member state.
Krausova, Khan, Kelly and her boyfriend Nasser were each jailed for eight months.
After the hearing Mark Bates of the UK Border Agency crime directorate said: ‘This international crime group systematically abused the immigration system and showed a total disregard for the sanctity of marriage.’ Source: Daily Mail.
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