Dozens of ‘sham’ weddings halted in Leeds


Immigration officers prevented about 70 sham marriages in one month taking place by monitoring a busy city centre register office, it has emerged.

The UK Border Agency team burst in to prevent two weddings which involved men living in the country illegally.

The services were filmed by the BBC’s Inside Out Yorkshire programme as officers watched the register office at Leeds Town Hall.

Officers described their co-operation with registrars as “excellent”.

The investigative team swooped on a wedding between a French bride and an Indian groom and found his leave to remain in the UK had been revoked.

‘More aware’
A second wedding between a Pakistani man and a Lithuanian woman was also halted.

Border Agency staff spent four weeks interviewing everyone getting married at Leeds register office.

In that period alone, they estimate they prevented 70 sham weddings from going ahead.

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It’s the registrars themselves who inform us after asking certain questions”

Det Insp Adrian Watkins, from the UK Border Agency, said: “Since we started looking at these last March, there’s been an increase and they’ve been brought to our attention on a more regular basis, probably because the registrars themselves are more aware of the problem.

“We’ve done an awful lot of work leading up to the operation, intelligence work.

“We’ve also got excellent co-operation with the registrars.

“It’s the registrars themselves who inform us after asking certain questions which raise their suspicions.”

Church officials also have to look closely at who is getting married.

The rector of Leeds Parish Church, Canon Tony Bundock, said: “Because of some of the abuses that did take place a few years ago, we’re now required to check that the address that they’ve given us is genuine by actually visiting them, going to both houses, both the bride and the groom.

“Also we’re required to check their identity by seeing some documentary evidence that proves that they are who they say they are.”

The programme will be shown at 19:30 GMT on BBC One in the Yorkshire area and on the BBC iPlayer.
BBC © 2012


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