Woman masterminded sham weddings
7:44am Wednesday 6th March 2013 in News
THE woman who masterminded a sham marriage ring made almost £30,000 for arranging nine unlawful fake weddings.
Maria Loureiro, aged 54, arranged for nine Portuguese women to be flown from Lisbon to England to marry nine Indian men, who were living in Bolton and wanted to remain in the country.
The men had all entered the country legally but their visas were due to expire or had already expired.
Ilias Neki, aged 46, of Argo Street in Daubhill, a director of the former business, Swantex, in Higher Swan Lane, was the "conduit" between the Indian men and Loureiro, Manchester Crown Court heard yesterday. Charlotte Holland, prosecuting, said the crimes came to light after a registrar at Blackburn and Darwen Register office raised the alarm because she believed a number of the couples did not know each other.
One of the brides did not even know her bridegroom’s name.
Loureiro, of Danes Road, London, was seen at a number of the ceremonies acting as an interpreter.
She gave false names and on one occasion even wore a blonde wig.
Border Agency staff watched Loureiro meeting women from flights at Liverpool John Lennon Airport.
They also saw her meeting perspective grooms, who she did not know.
The Border Agency carried out raids at homes in Bolton and Loureiro's London home on September 18 last year.
No evidence could be found showing the brides were living with their grooms, except for documents necessary for residency applications and several pictures from the weddings.
Lists were also found containing questions and answers about the brides' background, which were necessary for attempts to fool immigration officials, the court heard.
Loureiro and Neki pleaded guilty to conspiring to assist unlawful immigration by taking part in sham marriages at an earlier hearing.
The bridegrooms Faisal Chand, aged 25, of Derby Street, Daubhill, Inayat Tailor, ages 26, of Manchester Prison, Mehul Patel, aged 31, of St Helens Road, Bolton, Yusunbbhai Duka, aged 30, of Carnavon Road, Blackburn, Sajuaddin Mansuri, aged 27, of Mancroft Avenue in Bolton, Bhavesh Baodara, aged 22, of Derby Street, Daubhill, Amjad Patel, aged 23, of Hopefield Street, Daubhill, Mitesh Panjari, aged 25, of Olive Street, Daubhill, and Sarfran Mirja, aged 23, of Mancroft Avenue, Daubhill all admitted the same offence.
Mother-of-two Loureiro, a former teacher, did not have a lavish lifestyle and carried out an “unsophisticated operation”.
She moved to England with her husband and children but the marriage has broken down.
Neki, who is a married fatherof- two, got involved in the crimes through a man named “Babu”, who has not been arrested.
He volunteers with the young, elderly and with cricket clubs in the town, the court heard.
His teenage son is studying chemical engineering at Manchester University and may have to quit his studies to support his family, Yunus Valli, defending said.
Chand had worked in a post office in England and spent a year in a relationship with the woman he married illegally.
Simon Guerney, defending, said Tailor is a graduate and had been working for MRH Solicitors until his arrest. He was supporting his parents and siblings in India.
Mehul Patel has brought shame on his family and wishes to return to India as his mother has kidney failure, the court heard.
Duka, defended by Catherine Cundy, came to England legally and wanted to return to India.
Mansuri worked in a supermarket before his arrest and paid £6,500 for the sham marriage.
Baodara, defended by Duncan McDiarmid, came to the UK to study accountancy and management in London and moved to the North West because of better job prospects. He paid £8,000 for the marriage after borrowing funds from family.
Amjad Patel was approached by a man, who suggested he took part in a sham marriage to remain in the country. He agreed as he was embarrassed to return to his family when he could not support them.
Panjari did not go through with the marriage after his parents in India became concerned when he asked to borrow £2,000.
Mirja wanted to provide for his family. He worked in a shop in Bolton and paid £6,000 for the marriage after speaking to a man named Babu.
Sentencing of the 11 defendants will take place today.