Sham marriage scam : couple punished
08 September 2011
A would-be bride and groom whose plans for a sham marriage were foiled by a UK Border Agency investigation were jailed on 7 September at Bristol Crown Court.
Shahzad Anwar, a 33-year-old Pakistani man and Cristina Dinu, a 45-year-old Romanian woman of Wedmore Vale, Bristol, had previously admitted charges of conspiracy to commit immigration offences.
Judge Mark Horton jailed Anwar for 27 months and Dinu for 7 months.
The pair were arrested in September 2010 after we learned they were planning to marry at a Bristol register office despite neither of the pair being able to speak the other's language and only limited English.
Anwar had arrived in the UK and tried to claim asylum under the name Shahzad Malik in 2009.
This claim was rejected and an appeal was turned down by the courts. Steps were being taken to remove Anwar to his home country when he hatched the sham marriage plan in an attempt to be allowed to stay in the UK.
Investigators learned that Dinu, who was living in Germany, arrived in the UK on 14 April 2010 and within a week had submitted a joint application with Anwar to marry.
But before any ceremony could take place, our investigators received information about the pair's marriage plans and arrested them.
Despite Dinu initially claiming that the pair were in a genuine relationship, both later admitted the offences.
A sham marriage typically occurs when a non-European national marries someone from the European Economic Area as a means of attempting to gain long-term residency and the right to work and claim benefits in the UK.
Zaira Munsif, immigration crime team, UK Border Agency, said:
'Today's sentencing sends out a strong message to those thinking of taking part in sham marriages.
We take this kind of abuse of the system very seriously and we are working closely with churches and registrars to identify suspect weddings.
'Where there is evidence to suggest a wedding is not genuine we will investigate, stop it happening and prosecute those involved.
'We have specialist teams investigating cases just like this to ensure people are not able to benefit from breaking UK immigration laws.'
During sentencing, Judge Horton recommended that Anwar be deported to Pakistan once he has served at least half his sentence, adding that the case represented a well organised conspiracy to abuse the UK's immigration rules.