Gang Offers to Arrange Sham Gay Weddings for Immigration Cheats

Keith Perry, Telegraph (London), September 22, 2014

Criminal gangs were offering to arrange sham gay weddings for people wanting to bypass immigration controls within weeks of same sex marriages being made legal in March, a report said.

An investigation by the BBC programme Inside Out discovered that one gang organises sham gay marriages for a £10,000 fee.

Peter and Ricardo, the gang’s leaders, told undercover reporters they had “fixed” weddings “lots of times”.

They offered two potential fake Romanian brides to the reporter, both of whom explicitly stated they were not lesbians but were willing to pretend to be gay and marry anyone for cash.

One of the girls, Alexandra, said she had organised six previous sham weddings and knew how to deceive immigration officers.

She said: “We have to declare we live together . . . That’s not gonna happen but that’s what we have to declare.”

She said she could also arrange a “romantic” photo shoot of the undercover reporter and herself, designed to persuade the authorities that they were in a genuine relationship and said “we gonna like, hold hands, hold each other . . . we have to.”

The number of reported sham weddings has trebled in recent years, according to the Home Office.

Mark Rimmer, head of Registration and Nationality Services at Brent Council, said: “Here in Brent, the Home Office stops marriages on a weekly basis.

“In many boroughs in London the thought is that up to 20 to 30 per cent of marriages are actually for the avoidance of immigration control.”

But these statistics only account for straight fake weddings.

Mr Rimmer said: “I think it is probably more difficult to spot the signs if you have a same sex couple whether they be male or female.”

The gang investigated by Inside Out claimed that breaking the law by fixing sham gay marriages was easy.

Ricardo said he had never had any problems with the police or immigration officers.

He said: “You say ‘I am gay’. No more questions for you. Easy for gay.”

Minister for Immigration and Security, James Brokenshire, said he was disturbed by the Inside Out London report and had ordered his enforcement teams to launch an investigation into sham gay weddings as a result.

He said: “Registrars will be given new powers later this year to better identify all fraudulent marriages.”

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