Sunday, 11 May 2014
Four Nigerians jailed in the UK for involvement in fake marriages
Four Nigerians, a man and three women have been jailed in the UK for their involvement in many fake weddings in the country. Four fake brides and an ex-security guard fixer involved in an eight-month sham marriage scam have been jailed.Azuha Izegbune, 38 (pictured left), was the mastermind of the visa con - which saw fake weddings staged at registry offices in Birmingham, Stoke and Glasgow.
The former security guard from Birmingham, West Midlands, was paid to arrange fake weddings between Hungarian and Nigerian nationals so they could remain in the UK.
The weddings were arranged so both brides and grooms could secure European Area Residence Cards.
Following a Home Office probe, the scam was exposed - and those involved have now been sentenced to a total of nine years in jail at Birmingham Crown Court.
Sentencing, Judge Elizabeth Stacey said Izegbune had undermined the UK’s border controls and described him as 'the lynch-pin, the organiser and the fixer' of an eight-month conspiracy between December 2012 and September 2013.
She said: 'You met registrars, bought plane tickets, acted as witness and interpreter and recruited Ivett Szanto to help you find Hungarian grooms and brides.
'I have read the wonderful testimonies about you. It’s just desperately sad that you have used your considerable charm and skills to take part in these activities.'
Izegbune is himself married to a Hungarian and has lived legally in the UK since 2009 with dual Nigerian and Hungarian nationality.
The father-of-two was jailed for 31 months after pleading guilty to five counts of conspiracy to facilitate a breach of UK immigration law.
She had conspired with Nigerian-born ringleader Izegbune to help set up two further marriages with men she knew from her native Budapest.
Szanto had her sham marriage stopped mid-ceremony on May 30, 2013, in Stoke, Staffordshire, the court heard.
Sentencing her to 20 months, Judge Stacey said: 'Your role in this was much more peripheral. You were a small cog in the wheel. It was Izegbune who was directing you.'
But two of the weddings were stopped halfway through and a price list for a £7,500 ceremony was later recovered.
It showed just a £20 budget was allocated for the wedding dress, rings and shoes.
One of the fake brides, pregnant Nigerian Hellen Adedjumo-Dani, 31, took photos of herself with her fake partner outside McDonald's restaurants across Birmingham to try and make her relationship appear real, the court heard.
She had images of herself in a dressing gown on her bed and even saved her fake groom as 'Babe' on her phone.
She married her groom at a registry office in Birmingham in June 2013.
Adedjumo-Dani, who is due to give birth in October, was found guilty after a separate two-day trial in March of this year and was jailed for 22 months.
Nigerian women Nwabunwanne Eze, 35, and Chioma Nwangwu, 28, both from Birmingham, were all jailed for taking part in their own fake marriages.
Nwangu married her groom Birmingham registry office in June 2013.
Eze attempted to marry at Glasgow registry office in August 2013 - but the ceremony was raided by investigators.
She and Nwangwu pleaded guilty to one charge of breaching immigration law and were jailed for 16 months and 17 months respectively.
She had studied Health and Social Care at South Birmingham College after arriving legitimately on a student visa in 2010.
She exhausted all the appeals to stay in the country and took part in the sham marriage just before she would have been forced to leave the country. She has since lodged an application seeking asylum.
Nwangwu worked in a bank in Nigeria before arriving in Birmingham to study at Birmingham City University in 2011.
She returned home, but came back on a six-month visitor visa and wanted to stay in the UK after that expired to be with her genuine partner - a Nigerian who is legally in the country.
The Nigerian women were all warned they would face possible deportation once they complete their prison sentences.
A Proceeds of Crime Act hearing is scheduled for Izegbune to be heard in September.
Speaking after sentencing Andy Radcliffe, from the Home Office’s Criminal and Financial Investigations Team, said: 'Izegbune thought he could profit from abusing the marriage system and the UK’s immigration laws.
'He was seen by the other individuals as their ticket to either stay in the UK, or gain financially. But all five are now behind bars.
'We will continue to work with registrars to tackle this issue. The message to anyone involved in this sort of criminality is clear. 'The Home Office has the resource and expertise to catch up with you and bring you to justice.'