Seven people convicted for breaking immigration laws, after sham marriage in Watford is stopped

27/07/2011

A total of seven people have been convicted for conspiring to break the UK’s immigration laws, following an investigation and prosecution that started after the UK Border Agency arrived ‘uninvited’ to a sham wedding in Watford, on 11 January.

The last two members of the group, Ghayoor Shah, 32, (male) and Lenka Karapinova, 29, (female), were convicted at St Albans Crown Court on 22 July, having pleaded not guilty. Shah was sentenced to two and half years and Karapinova to eight months in prison.

Three other men - Muhammed Shah, 22, Mohammed Khan, 26, and Muhammed Ismail, 29 - and two other women - Bozena Makosova, 25, and Zuzana Gaziova, 23 - had pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge at earlier hearings. Shah has been jailed for 14 months, Khan for 20 months, and Makosova and Gaziova to eight months each. Ismail is yet to be sentenced.

The men, all in the UK on student visas and originally from Pakistan, had hoped their marriages to EU nationals, in this case, Slovakian women, would aid their bids to gain long-term residency in the UK with the associated rights to work and claim benefits.

The operation involved seconded police officers working together with warranted UK Border Agency officers to investigate organised immigration crime. The suspects were all charged on the advice of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

CPS prosecutor, Jane Roberts, said: 'The CPS has worked closely with the UK Border Agency in relation to this case and having reviewed the file, we were in a position to advise charging these suspects with offences in connection with breaking immigration laws.

'They have all subsequently been brought before the courts, where five defendants pleaded guilty to the offences due to the strong evidence held and the remaining two defendants have been convicted by a jury. Six defendants have so far been sentenced accordingly for their crimes. We will continue to work closely with our partners to ensure that such criminals are brought to justice.'

Paul Hedges, from the UK Border Agency's Immigration Crime Team, said: 'These marriages were fuelled not by love, but by the grooms' desire to stay in the UK by any means and by the brides' appetite for cold hard cash.

'They treated the immigration laws with contempt, but the law has caught up with them. The men will get their extended stay in the UK, but it will be behind bars.'