17 January 2012

Irish priest in court for part in sham marriage ring

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A former Catholic priest has appeared in court for his alleged role into sham marriages and other UK immigration related charges.

UK visa

The increasing number of sham marriages intended to bypass UK visa requirements is cause for concern.

Cleric Pat Buckley, who was suspended as a priest in 1986 before being excommunicated in 1998, is accused of conducting wedding ceremonies in Northern Ireland which would allow foreign nationals to stay in the country without a valid UK visa.

Buckley has been charged with conspiracy to defraud the Home Secretary Theresa May by facilitating the entry of foreign nationals into the UK between January 2004 and September 2009.

Buckley appeared in court with 15 others after an investigation into the ring uncovered evidence of bogus marriages, fraud and money laundering. Buckley strenuously denied the charges as "an attempt by the establishment to silence a priest who has been the champion of the marginalised for 36 years".

Labelling the prosecution against him as "reprehensible and dubious", Buckley said the decision to prosecute him is "groundless and highly suspect".

He explained that he is committed to challenging the charges and that "those responsible for the dubious prosecution will be held to account by all legal means."

While Buckley's case has now been adjourned until the 7th February, the case highlights the growing concern that the number of sham marriages across Northern Ireland is on the rise. UK immigration officials revealed last month that 35 bogus marriages were broken up over the course of the preceding six months.

The UK Visa Bureau is an independent UK immigration consultancy specialising in helping people prepare for their UK Ancestry Visa application.

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