When the happy couple could barely communicate with each other because they didn’t share a common language, it was a little suspicious.
But when the groom couldn’t even recall the name of his bride, the couple could be fairly sure the game was up.
Yesterday Portuguese-born Jorge Mouchinho and his Trinidadian bride Falana McKenzie were jailed for a year after she paid him £2,000 to go through a sham marriage with her.
The couple had booked to marry at Nottingham Register Office in August.
But staff became suspicious when they appeared nervous and hesitant at a meeting prior to the wedding.
They had difficulty communicating with each other without an interpreter and Mouchinho was unable to give his prospective wife’s name.
So staff alerted police and, just when they were about to say ‘I do’ at the wedding ceremony, they were interrupted by the UK Border Agency.
Nottingham Crown Court was told that as an EU citizen, Mouchinho, 33, had a legal right to be in the UK.
But his bride-to-be did not. McKenzie, 30, from Trinidad, had previously been in the UK legitimately on student and working visas, but her most recent student visa expired in April this year.
When McKenzie’s home was searched, photos were found of her with a boyfriend who was not Mouchinho.
It also emerged that the couple had lived more than 140 miles apart–Mouchinho’s last address was in Arnold, Nottinghamshire, while McKenzie had previously lived in Dulwich in South London.
Yesterday they were both given 12-month sentences after McKenzie admitted entering the UK without leave while Mouchinho pleaded guilty at the same court to assisting unlawful immigration. Judge Michael Stokes QC said: ‘It is a very serious offence to seek to circumvent the immigration laws of this country.
‘This sort of activity simply has to be stamped out.’
McKenzie will be deported at the end of her sentence.
The case comes after a series of raids on wedding ceremonies across the UK.
In Sheffield a 21-year-old woman was led across a city centre street in a full-length white dress and handcuffs after the UK Border Agency targeted a suspected sham marriage. They swooped on the ceremony as a 36-year-old Afghan ‘groom’ and his Slovak ‘bride’ were preparing to tie the knot in Sheffield Register Office.
They were arrested by the waiting officers along with two guests.
All four were marched out past stunned shoppers and onlookers and into waiting police vans.
Since July, there have been 53 sham marriage swoops across the country, resulting in 126 arrests.
Jorge Mouchinho (right) and his Trinidadian bride-to-be What’s-er-Name.