A Sham marriage racket leading to permitting 2000 illegal immigrants to stay in the country was busted by the police and an immigration solicitor along with his three colleagues was found guilty for the crime.
This group flew women in from eastern European countries within the EU to marry non-EU citizens. Most couples only met on the day of the wedding and needed an interpreter to translate their vows. Some of the grooms were Albanian career criminals suspected of murder, drug trafficking and money laundering.
Around £14,000 were paid to the law firm to arrange marriages and most often they would use fake identity documents to evade police at home.
The immigration solicitor Tevfick Souleiman, 39, and his colleagues Cenk Guclu, 41, Furrah Kosimov, 29 and Zafer Altinbas, 38, made up love stories to fool officials. The law firm is believed to have made £20million in the scam.
This was believed to be the largest marriage fraud ever committed in the UK according to sources.
The scam was run between January 2004 and February 2012. Several brides were flown in each day and taken to registry offices across the country. They were paid off and told never to contact the ‘husbands’ again.
At the Old Bailey yesterday Souleiman and Guclu were found guilty of receiving proceeds of crime and Kosimov guilty of money laundering.
Souleiman claimed he had no knowledge of the scam, while immigration adviser Cenk Guclu, 41, tried to blame workmate Furrah Kosimov, 29, but was also found guilty.
Kosimov, who went on the run before the case got underway, was convicted in his absence. Altinbas had earlier pleaded guilty to his role in the illegal plan.
All three were found guilty of conspiracy to breach immigration law. The operation was being run from a north London law office of the solicitor. At a point of time the group were flying many brides a day and the women were housed in an east London tower block before being taken to registry offices across the country.
A non EU man marrying a EU women would give them the right to live in the UK and claim benefits because of their new status and could still stay in the country after they separated.
Forged affidavits containing details of the couples’ supposed courtships were also included. The stories were all scripted by the group members. And some couples came face to face at the registry office on the day of wedding.
The racket was busted when suspicions were raised about the number of couples marrying at Cambridge Registry Office, despite having no links to the city.
The city law office was raided by the police and a lock up which contained thousands of files about the fake arrangements. They had so many clients they ran out of bogus addresses and listed several couples as living in the same home.
Souleiman was raking in a salary of nearly £50,000 after tax from legitimate work, the vast majority of which involved clients of Turkish origin.
The gang is to be sentenced on Monday.