08 September 2010

Vicar jailed for participation in UK immigration scam

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A former vicar was sentenced to four years in jail yesterday for his involvement in a UK immigration scam which saw him conduct as many as eight marriages a day, allowing UK visa holders who had paid thousands of pounds for the ceremony the right to apply for indefinite leave to stay in the country.

Reports indicate that the bride and groom at these weddings had often not even met, and often could not speak the same language.

Church of England vicar Alex Brown, 61, was convicted along with two others following a seven week trial. Jurors found Brown guilty of conspiring to facilitate the commission of breaches of UK Immigration laws. This follows one of the biggest ever investigations by the UK Border Agency as caseworkers for the agency identified a sharp increase in immigration applications from applicants who had married at Brown’s church.

Andy Cummins, Detective Inspector from the UK Border Agency's South East region immigration crime team, described the investigation as "long and complex". "I hope this prosecution sends out a message that we will not tolerate abuse of our immigration system. Those who facilitate sham marriages are breaking the law and will be held accountable for their actions" Mr Cummins said.

Of the applications for a form of leave from those married at the church, approximately 150 have been confirmed as outstanding by the UK Border Agency, and have been frozen, pending adjudication by the agency.

Immigration Minister Damian Green yesterday confirmed that the UK Border Agency is conducting "an intense period of activity to go after these organised crime groups to put the ringleaders before the courts".

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