Gang behind phoney weddings racket in Pakistan face prison

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A SHAM marriage gang based in Yorkshire has been brought to justice after staging fake weddings in Pakistan so men from the country could illegally enter the UK.

Eighteen members of the Rotherham-based gang now face jail over the “commercial operation”, although two suspects are on the run.

Czech and Slovak women living legitimately in the UK were paid by Asian organisers to fly to Pakistan where “marriages” were arranged with Pakistani nationals, Sheffield Crown Court heard.

Following three trials, which can only now be reported after restrictions were lifted, seven defendants were found guilty of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration to the UK between January 1, 2009, and New Year’s Eve last year.

Another 11 defendants pleaded guilty to the same charge.

Applications for visas were submitted to the British High Commission in Islamabad by Pakistanis seeking leave to join their “wives” in the UK.

The phoney weddings included brides posing for photographs with their “grooms”, with the pictures then submitted in support of visa applications along with false documents.

But suspicions over the growing number of applications led to the criminal ring being smashed and none of the 62 fraudulent visa applications were granted.

Prosecutor Sarah Wright told the court: “It was a well-run, professional and indeed commercial operation.

“It was a massive operation over a considerable period of time.”

One 25-year-old Czech woman claimed to have been married three times in four months and another “bride” was found with £1,000 in her handbag when she returned to the UK.

Ms Wright told the court: “Although some of the sponsors took part in what appear to be wedding ceremonies with the applicants in Pakistan, they clearly had no intention of living with them in settled and genuine relationships.

“Their marriages or pretend marriages, posing for photographs and pretending they were marrying, were undertaken solely for immigration purposes and were therefore sham marriages.”

She said some of the “brides” never took part in ceremonies but allowed their details to be used to pretend to be a spouse.

False documents were traced back to an address in Broom Grove, near Rotherham town centre, the semi-detached home at the time of the alleged organisers, Talib Hussain, 41, and Tariq Mehmood, 27, Rahina Zaman, 32, and Veronika Horvathova, 21.

Forged documents were also found in the attic at the home of Mohammed Ramzan, 59, and his wife Musserat Bi, 31. Bi was cleared of conspiracy.

The court heard that Mehmood, of Allan Street, Clifton, and Veronika Horvothova, of Lindley Street, St Ann’s, both Rotherham, are on the run.

The 18 defendants will be sentenced at a later date.

They are Nikola Horvathova, 25, of Hatherley Road, St Anns, Eva Holubova, 19, Peter Pohlodko, 19, and Zuzanna Holubova, 25, all of Grosvenor Road, Eastwood, Kristina Popikova, of Holmes Lane, Masbrough, Mohammed Ramzan of Broom Grove, all Rotherham: Aftab Hussain of Town Street, Tinsley, Sheffield; Talib Hussain, of Shawsfield Road, Broom, Rahina Zaman, 32, of Allan Street, Clifton, Veronika Pohlodkova, 36, of Grosvenor Road, Michaela Lengyelova, 30, of Selborn Street, St Anns, Khalda Ahmed, 45, of Badsley Moor Lane, Clifton, and Svetlana Krausova, 31, of Hatherley Road, St Ann’s, all Rotherham; Sabina Khan, 45, and Farah Khan, 43, of Heath Terrace, Barkerend, Louise Kelly, 26, of Broadstone Way, Holme Wood, Yasser Nasser, 20, of Kenton Way, Holme Wood, all Bradford; and Nadia Qureshi, 27, of Aldfield Way, Fir Vale, Sheffield.