A GANG ran a ‘huge, well-organised and professional’ sham marriage operation set up to allow Asian men to live in the UK under false pretences, a court heard.
In the scam, based in Rotherham, Czech or Slovak women were flown to Pakistan to wed men who paid cash for the fake marriage.
Following the wedding, the groom would apply to move to Britain to live with his ‘wife’, using fake documents and staged photographs of the ceremony to make his request appear genuine.
But the marriages were exposed as a con when the British High Commission in Islamabad became concerned about the applications.
The UK Border Agency and South Yorkshire Police then set up Operation Razorback - the biggest investigation of its kind ever in the region.
The investigation led to 18 men and women being convicted of conspiring to breach immigration laws or assisting unlawful immigration.
Nine are expected to be sentenced this morning, while the remaining nine will have their cases dealt with later today.
Sarah Wright, prosecuting, told Sheffield Crown Court: “Some of those charged are sponsors of the applications, although some took part in the wedding ceremonies with the applicants.
“All clearly had no intention of living with them in settled and genuine relationships. The marriages were solely undertaken for immigration purposes and are therefore sham marriages.
“Others were the organisers and facilitators. The conspiracy was a sophisticated one.”
Miss Wright said ringleader Talib Hussain, aged 41, was ‘at the very hub’ of the scam, and his semi-detached house on Broom Grove, in Moorgate, Rotherham, was the ‘engine room’ of the operation.
She said the taxi driver recruited potential spouses and was likely to have earned ‘considerable sums’ from Pakistani men who wanted to live in Britain.
Miss Wright said he is believed to own a luxury house in Pakistan.
His ex-wife Rahina Zaman, 32, was also at the centre of the con along with Hussain’s 27-year-old brother Tariq Mehmood - who has gone on the run.
Hussain’s brother-in-law Mohammed Ramzan, 59, helped out by storing fake documents and ferrying brides to Manchester Airport.
Miss Wright said 19-year-old Slovak Peter Pohlooko acted as an interpreter along with his girlfriend, Eva Holubova, also 19. Holubova also posed as the bride in a number of sham weddings.
Aftab Hussain, 36, from Tinsley, Sheffield, paid for flights while the rest of the first group of nine – Sabina Khan, 46, Rahina Zaman, 32, Khalda Ahmed, 45, and Nadia Qureshi, 28 – also pretended to be brides.
Qureshi was caught with £1,000 in her handbag while returning from a trip to Pakistan in 2011.
More than 60 applications for settlement visas and similar permits were made, but none were actually successful.