South Yorkshire immigrants’ sham marriages smashed

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A SHAM marriage gang staged fake weddings with Eastern European brides so Pakistani men could enter the UK illegally, a court heard.

Czech and Slovak women living in the UK were paid by Asian organisers to fly to Pakistan where ‘marriages’ were arranged with Pakistani men.

Supported by false documents, applications for visas were submitted to the British High Commission in Islamabad by Pakistanis seeking to join their ‘wives’ in the UK.

But suspicions over the growing number of applications led to the Rotherham-based ring being smashed – and none of the 62 applications was granted.

Prosecutor Sarah Wright told Sheffield Crown Court: “It was a well-run, professional and commercial operation over a considerable time.”

The weddings included brides posing for photos with their ‘grooms’ pretending they were getting married.

One 25-year-old Czech woman claimed to have been ‘married’ three times in four months and another was found with £1,000 in her bag when she returned to the UK.

Eighteen defendants are now facing jail when they are sentenced at a later date.

In a series of three trials – which can only now be reported after restrictions were lifted – seven defendants were found guilty of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration from 2009 to 2011. Another 11 pleaded guilty – but two main organisers are on the run.

Ms Wright told the court: “The aim was to try to enable the applicants to enter the UK unlawfully. Although some took part in what appear to be wedding ceremonies with the applicants in Pakistan, the women clearly had no intention of living with them in settled and genuine relationships.”

A total of 62 fraudulent visa applications were linked to 32 addresses in the UK, and false documents were traced to an address in Broom Grove, near Rotherham town centre.

It was the semi-detached home of the alleged organisers – brothers Talib Hussain, 41, and Tariq Mehmood, 27 – plus Rahina Zaman, 32, and Veronika Horvathova, 21.

Forged documents were also found in a bag in the attic at the home on the same street of Mohammed Ramzan, 59, and his wife Musserat Bi, 31. Bi was cleared of conspiracy.

Mehmood, of Allan Street, Clifton, and Veronika Horvothova, of Lindley Street, St Ann’s, are on the run.