A GANG who ran a massive international sham marriage scam have been locked up for a total of more than 25 years.
The ‘huge, well-organised and professional’ operation was run from addresses in Rotherham.
It involved British, Czech and Slovak women being flown to Pakistan to wed men who paid cash for the fake marriage and supporting documents such as staged photos – which were then used to apply for immigration to the UK.
Sheffield Crown Court heard none of the applications were actually successful – and the marriages were exposed as a con when the British High Commission in Islamabad became concerned about the bogus visa requests, of which more than 60 were made.
An investigation called Operation Razorback was then launched by the UK Border Agency and South Yorkshire Police.
The ringleader of the scam was dad-of-five Talib Hussain, a taxi driver who ran the ‘sophisticated’ scheme from his semi-detached home on Broom Grove, Moorgate, Rotherham.
Thousands of forged documents were discovered in the property, described in court as the ‘engine room’ of the operation.
The judge Rosalind Coe QC told Hussain: “You were the organiser of the operation and made some sort of financial gain. The likelihood is considerable sums were charged for thousands of people wanting to live in the UK.
“Participating in sham marriages is a very serious matter – an abuse of the marriage ceremony itself and an abuse of the immigration system.
“The operation was large-scale and very sophisticated.”
Judge Coe said Hussain appeared on some of the marriage photographs and booked flights for the women.
But the UK Border Agency noticed the same people appeared in many of the photos – and the same clothes were being swapped between brides, grooms and guests to make the pictures look genuine.
One of the fake brides – Eva Holubova, 19 – was ‘married’ three times in the space of four months, while another bogus wife, 28-year-old Nadia Qureshi, was caught with £1,000 in her handbag on a flight back from Pakistan.
“Deterrent sentences are appropriate,” Judge Coe added.