Bogus marriage immigrants vanish
At least 50 illegal immigrants who took part in bogus marriages conducted by shamed vicar Alex Brown have disappeared without trace, The Sunday Telegraph can disclose.
By David Barrett, Home Affairs Correspondent
Published: 9:00PM BST 07 Aug 2010
The UK Border Agency has prioritised 200 cases for investigation after Brown, from East Sussex, was found guilty of breaching immigration laws last month, but officers fear that some of the bogus African brides and bridegrooms will never be found.
About 50 names in the marriage register at the Church of St Peter and St Paul, in St Leonards-on-Sea, are feared to be aliases and the UKBA has found no record of the immigrants in its databases.
Immigration officers are now hunting scores of immigrants who paid up to 15,000 to marry Eastern European volunteers, making it easier for then to stay in Britain and win the right to work and claim benefits.
A UKBA source said: “With about 50 of the 200 cases which we have prioritised, they have not applied for residence permits and they are not known to us in our systems.
“We can't rule out the possibility that they used aliases in the marriage register. They will be the most difficult to trace.”
The UKBA has addresses for 130 who may now be arrested if they can be traced. Of these, 70 were handed residence permits on the back of their bogus marriages.
This newspaper can reveal that about a dozen were granted indefinite leave to remain in Britain or a shorter period of leave, and 10 have already been arrested and deported.
The source said: “If there are some that we cannot immediately locate using the addresses and other details we have about them, they will be listed on out 'watch list' as absconders and quite possibly entered in the Police National Computer as well.
“If they come into contact with the authorities at any stage then they will be arrested.”
Lewes Crown Court heard that between July 2005 and July 2009 Brown presided over 383 marriages at the Anglican church, a 30-fold increase on the 13 he had conducted over the previous four years.
At some of the ceremonies, the couples produced rings that did not fit, and in some cases the bride and groom could not speak the same language.
There were several instances where a bride or groom would request to marry their “partner”, only to undertake the vows with someone else entirely. One groom married twice in one day.
Brown went to extraordinary lengths to hide the deceit, neglecting to read out the banns before weddings and holding services sometimes as many as eight a day outside normal church hours. The congregation and church warden were oblivious to the illegal industry being operated in their small parish.
Brown will be sentenced next month along with two other men involved in organising the scam, Michael Adelasoye, 50, a Nigerian pastor and immigration lawyer, and Vladymyr Buchak, 34, a Ukrainian illegal immigrant.
Gareth Redmond, a spokesman for the UK Border Agency, said: “The UK Border Agency has begun reviewing the cases of all the possible beneficiaries of this scam, and where there is evidence that their wedding may have been a sham we will seek to remove them from the country.
“We also have the power to take away permission to stay in the UK given to anyone as a result of a sham marriage.
“Let's be clear. A marriage certificate alone does not give foreign nationals the right to live and work in the UK. Their relationship also has to be genuine. If it's not, they will face prosecution or deportation.”
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