Whistleblower: hundreds of illegal immigrants 'got away with sham marriages'
A former immigration officer claims hundreds of illegal immigrants wed in sham marriages after Government officials turned a blind eye to the scandal.
By Alastair Jamieson
Published: 11:30AM BST 07 Aug 2010
Whistleblower Neville Sprague, 56, alleges he was sacked by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) because he insisted on investigating crimes his department did not want recorded in their statistics.
The former chief immigration officer is taking the agency to a tribunal where he is claiming unfair dismissal.
He told the Daily Mail the shams involved West Africans, mainly from Ghana, who would pay more than 10,000 to marry a British citizen who would also be paid up to 7,000 to take part.
He said: ''I amassed evidence of bogus weddings but my managers just did not want to know. They were really keen for me not to investigate.
They kept saying, 'It's not that bad'. I said: 'Yes it is!'.''
Immigration minister Damian Green has said the Government is determined to show the country is not a soft touch for those with no right to remain.
Last week the Rev Alex Brown was found guilty of conducting around 360 sham marriages over a period of four years at his church in St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex, thought to be the largest scam of its kind.
Mr Sprague, from south Croydon, south London, said he uncovered a similar scam in east London but his bosses ignored his efforts to investigate it properly.
He told the paper: ''To do something about it required effort, resources and of course it became another unwelcome statistic.''
After a series of disagreements he was suspended for gross misconduct in March 2008, and then sacked in May last year, which he believes was because he tried to investigate too much.
Gareth Redmond, UKBA area director for the South East, said: ''Owing to the ongoing legal proceedings we are unable to comment on the details of this case, other than to say that the UK Border Agency will be vigorously defending our approach in this case.
''Cracking down on bogus marriage is a high priority for the UK Border Agency and we are in the middle of an intensive period of focused enforcement activity over the summer.
''Over the past three weeks alone, we have carried out over 30 operations to tackle sham marriage facilitators and offenders.
''The conviction of Rev Alex Brown and his co-conspirators in Sussex last week also shows the very serious consequences that face those who facilitate sham marriages.
''We are determined to make it harder than ever for illegal migrants to stay in the UK.''
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