A MAN from Kosovo was arrested moments before he was due to take part in a suspected Valentine’s Day ‘sham marriage’ in Blackburn.

Acting on information that the relationship may not be genuine, Home Office immigration enforcement officers went to the Register Office in Northgate, shortly before 3pm yesterday.

Just before the ceremony was due to begin, officers intervened and the 29-year-old man was arrested after checks revealed he was in the country illegally.

He had been due to marry a 20-year-old British woman, who was interviewed by officers and later released.

The ‘groom’ was detained pending his removal from the UK.

The operation was carried out with the full co-operation of the superintendent registrar.

Assistant director Karen McDonough, from the Home Office’s Lancashire immigration enforcement team, said: “We are working closely with registrars to clamp down on sham weddings and civil partnerships. This operation is another example of the success that we are having.

“Where there are suspicions that a relationship may not be genuine we will investigate and, if necessary, intervene to stop it happening.”

A sham marriage or civil partnership typically occurs when a non-European national marries someone from the European Economic Area as a means of attempting to gain long-term residency and the right to work and claim benefits in the UK.

Anyone with information about suspected immigration abuse should visit www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/aboutus/contact/report-crime or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.