Four men and women involved in a Sheffield sham marriage scam which ‘undermined’ the UK’s immigration laws have been jailed.
British women were recruited by ringleader Masoud Rasab to marry non-British nationals with the promise of thousands of pounds in cash in order to allow the men to remain in the country.
Rasab, aged 38, was sentenced to four years in prison, while his ‘lieutenant’ Sabrina Khan, who recruited others and was herself a fraudulent bride, received two-and-a-half years.
Rasab, of Firth Park Road, Firth Park, organised a series of weddings for men desperate to stay in the UK between November 2009 and July 2013.
Khan, 29, of Wade Close, Broom, Rotherham, married Umair Hussain, 28, of Scott Road, Pitsmoor, a month after they met in October 2011.
Alisha Mahmood, 21, of Avon Mount, Masbrough, Rotherham, married Muhammad Ishaque, who was not on trial.
Mahmood acted as a ‘scout’ for cash and recruited Keeley Cox into the scam.
Cox, who had already pleaded guilty before the trial, married Yasir Awan, who was also not being tried.
Rasab was handed four years in prison, while Khan was sentenced to two and a half years behind bars.
Mahmood and Hussain got 21 months in jail each.
The scam was exposed after Nottingham’s deputy superintendent registrar became suspicious of Mahmood and Ishaque’s wedding – because there was ‘little interaction’ between them – and reported them to the Home Office.
Chris Smith, prosecuting, told the court: “Money can buy you a British bride and so through her, buy you the means to deceive the authorities into giving you a right to stay as her spouse.
“The women in this case were prepared - for the promise of money – to marry men they didn’t know. Their marriages were less about passion and more about profit.”
Judge Michael Murphy said the case undermined confidence in the immigration system in the UK, which he said is based on the idea that people of all backgrounds ‘meet and fall in love with each other’.
He added: “The immigration laws in Great Britain reflect that.
“Where people like you four seek to exploit the system, you undermine it. You cause public confidence in immigration law to be reduced.
“You Mr Rasab were the main organiser of this enterprise and a thoroughly dishonest person. It was motivated by greed.
“Sabrina Khan, you were more than just the position of a bride. You were a recruiter and a persuader.
“Alisha Mahmood, you did play some part in getting a vulnerable person, Keeley Cox, to join in this enterprise, but you yourself were a vulnerable person.
“You were 19 years of age with a severe drinking problem. Drink is not an excuse, it’s a background – like your age and your immaturity at the time.
“It’s no defence whatsoever for any one of you to say that you were hard up. Many people are hard up. This was an offence that has a certain prevalence and therefore there has to be a degree of deterrence in the sentence I impose.”
The court heard Hussain would likely be deported at the conclusion of his sentence because the Pakistani national was no longer in the country lawfully.
Home Office investigator Mark Bates, from Immigration Enforcement Criminal Investigations, said: “This was a persistent attempt to trample over the UK’s immigration laws by a gang driven by dishonesty and greed.
“We will not tolerate sham marriage abuse, and this group will now pay the price for their criminality.
“The Home Office has specialist investigative teams who continue to crackdown on all forms of immigration crime. These sentences show that those who try to cheat the system will be caught and jailed.”
Immigration and Security Minister James Brokenshire said: “These sentences send a clear message to the criminals who think they can cheat our immigration laws. Our specialist investigative teams will catch you, and you will be brought to justice. We are making it even harder for immigration criminals by building a system that is fair to British citizens and legitimate immigrants, and which cracks down on those who flout the rules.”