U.K. vicar on trial over sham marriages for illegal immigrants
Rev Alex Brown presided over 383 marriages between 2005 and 2009, the vast majority of which officials believe were false
Published on Friday, Jun. 11, 2010 9:11AM EDT
A vicar accused of conducting hundreds of sham marriages to allow illegal immigrants to gain residency in Britain could not have thought they involved genuine couples, a court heard on Friday.
Rev Alex Brown, 61, is accused of conspiring with co-defendants Michael Adelasoye, 50, and Vladymyr Buchak, 33, to facilitate the commission of breaches of immigration laws.
Mr. Brown presided over 383 marriages at the Church of St Peter and St Paul in St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex, between July 2005 and July 2009, the vast majority of which were believed to be false, Lewes Crown Court heard.
The Crown alleges that the three men preyed on eastern European migrants who were living in the area and desperate to earn money, by offering them cash sums of up to 3,000 to marry Africans to allow them to obtain the documents to live and work in the UK.
The Press Association reported that prosecutor David Walbank showed jurors photocopies of the marriage register at the church, which showed that 360 weddings during the period involved eastern Europeans marrying African nationals, mainly from Nigeria.
He said the register showed that there were also several instances of participants cancelling one wedding, but then marrying someone else just one or two months later.
One person even got married to a different person on the same day they were registered to marry their original partner, with both entries being recorded on the same page.
All the entries were written in Mr. Browns handwriting, Mr. Walbank said.
Every marriage registered had to name the place of birth of the bride and groom, so there could be no doubt that Mr. Brown knew where each of them was from.
Mr. Walbank said there was also at least one instance where someone was registered to be married more than once.
Its not our case that literally every one of the marriages conducted there was a sham. But you can be absolutely sure that the vast majority were.
And you can be sure that Father Alex Brown knew full well that the vast majority of the marriages were shams with the purpose of breaching the immigration laws of this country.
The court heard that checks on many of the African participants in the marriages found they had already attempted to gain residency in the UK by different means but had failed.
The trial continues.