Seven accused over sham weddings

Masoud Rasab
Masoud Rasab
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A man who recruited brides for cash organised a series of sham marriages so immigrant grooms could apply to stay in the UK, a court heard.

Masoud Rasab, aged 38, from Firth Park, is accused of organising four weddings for four men who were desperate to stay in the UK between November 2009 and July 2013.

Sheffield Crown Court heard when one bride tried to pull out ‘vile threats’ were made against her and her children.

Seven defendants - four men and three women - are on trial accused of conspiring to facilitate a breach of immigration law, a charge they all deny.

Christopher Smith, prosecuting, said: “This is a case about sham marriages.

“In the course of this trial you will hear about four weddings and how they were built, not on love, mutual respect and companionship but a combination of greed and dishonesty.”

Mr Smith said UK immigration laws allow foreign nationals who fall in love with a British citizen to apply to stay in the country.

“There are those desperate to stay in this country that are prepared to exploit that weakness,” he said.

“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 four 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.”

Mr Smith said the first wedding was between Tracey Coulstock, aged 48, of Hatfield, Hertfordshire, and Gul Khatab, 35, a Pakistani national from Scott Road, Pitsmoor, Sheffield, who was in the UK on a student visa.

The couple applied for a certificate of approval to marry in October 2009 and married at Hatfield Register Office in January 2010.

In March 2010 Khatab applied for indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

But instead of living in Hatfield with his new ‘wife’ Khatab lived and worked 150 miles away in Sheffield.

Mr Smith said Coulstock, a security guard, was paid £7,000.

The second wedding was between Sabrina Khan, aged 29, of Wade Close, Broom, Rotherham, and Umair Hussain, 28, of Scott Road, Pitsmoor.

Six weeks before his student visa was due to expire in December 2011, Hussain gave notice of his intention to marry Khan at Leicester Register Office.

The wedding went ahead and Mr Smith said Hussain made 15 payments of cash into Khan’s bank account.

Mr Smith said although Khan was ‘married’ she claimed benefits as a single woman and text messages found on her phone indicated an ‘intimate’ relationship with another man within five months of the wedding.

The third wedding was in July 2012 between Keeley Cox, who has pleaded guilty to the conspiracy and Yasir Awan, who is not on trial.

Mr Smith said Cox was recruited by her friend Alisha Mahmood, a ‘scout’ who was being paid £250 commission by Rasab, of Firth Park Road, Firth Park, to find suitable brides.

The wedding took place in April 2012 at Nottingham Register Office.

Mr Smith said when Cox tried to pull out, threats were made towards her and her family.

The fourth wedding also took place at Nottingham Register Office between Mahmood, 21, of Avon Mount, Masborough, Rotherham, and Muhammad Ishaque, who is not on trial.

The scam was exposed after Nottingham’s deputy superintendent registrar became suspicious of the couple because there was ‘little interaction’ between them and reported them to the Home Office.

After they couple were arrested, notes were discovered at Mahmood’s home which included details of the early stages of their relationship, the colours of her husband’s walls and carpets and details of his height and shoe size.

A fourth man, Tahir Siddique, aged 41, of St Lawrence Glebe, Tinsley, denies allowing his address to be used as part of the scam.