James Tozer, Daily Mail (London), December 13, 2011
A vicar was yesterday warned that he faced going to jail ‘for some time’ after he admitted staging 31 sham marriages.
The Rev Canon John Magumba, 58, conducted weddings between illegal immigrant brides and grooms and EU passport holders they barely knew so they could remain in Britain.
The Ugandan-born vicar also admitted pocketing over £8,000 that was given to his church in fees or donations from genuine weddings and funerals.
Investigators from the UK Border Agency were tipped off earlier this year that Magumba, who covered three churches in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, was helping illegal immigrants take part in bogus weddings.
Equipped with marriage certificates, immigrants were then able to obtain a visa allowing them leave to stay in Britain with full access to education, healthcare and welfare benefits.
Often the couples would immediately drop the pretence of a relationship straight after the ceremony and go their separate ways.
At Bolton Crown Court yesterday, Magumba pleaded guilty to conspiracy to breaching UK immigration law by conducting sham marriages and also two counts of theft.
Judge Thomas Teague QC told the defence counsel for the shamed vicar: ‘It is a very serious case and he must obviously expect to lose his liberty for some time.’
Speaking to Magumba, who stood in the dock with his head bowed, the judge added that it was ‘a very serious matter’.
The married father-of-six, who wore an open-neck shirt with no dog collar, was accompanied by the Venerable Alan Wolstencroft, from the Bishop of Manchester’s office.
Afterwards he said: ‘He will not be saying anything–he is very upset.’
Magumba admitted conspiring with a number of people–who cannot be named for legal reasons–in facilitating the commission of a breach in immigration law between April 2008 and February 2011.
He also admitted stealing £5,437 from St Peter’s Church and £2,908 from St Luke’s Church, both in Rochdale–a total of £8,345.
He was granted bail and will be sentenced in January.
The vicar, of Deeplish, Rochdale, was arrested in March after an investigation into 100 sham marriages and suspended by the Bishop of Manchester, the Right Reverend Nigel McCulloch.