Two men who were part of a gang who tried to organise a sham marriage in Hull have been jailed for their roles in the conspiracy.
Nigerian Abiola Kumoye, 35, and 27-year-old Ayodeji Abbis, were key players in a plot to stage a marriage between a Nigerian man and a Portuguese woman at Hull registry office in November 2012.
Kumoye, of Shillingford Road, Manchester, and Abbis, of Grange Road, Leeds, were jailed for 16 months and 8 months respectively at Hull Crown Court yesterday (Thursday 31 October) after admitting their part in the plot.
Nigerian groom Jayeola Abiola, 27, and his would-be bride Vania Pinheiro Fernandes, a 29-year-old Portuguese, were arrested by Home Office investigators moments before their ceremony was due to start at the Guildhall, Hull, on 8 November 2012.
Officers had been tipped off by a registrar who became suspicious that the ‘bride’ and ‘groom’ appeared to know very little about each other during a pre-marriage interview. The court heard how Abiola had selected the Celine Dion song ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ to be played at the ceremony.
Home Office investigators discovered that Abbis was paid £1,000 to play the part of ‘best man’, and Kumoye was the main organiser, receiving £2,600 for his services. On the day of the planned wedding, Kumoye was caught on CCTV with the couple in a Leeds store buying a wedding dress.
Abiola, whose student visa was about to expire, had planned to marry Fernandes in a bid to cheat immigration law and stay in the UK.
Following their arrest, Abiola, of Grafton Street, Hull, and Fernandes, of Buckley Road, Manchester, admitted that they had met on just two occasions, one of which was the day of the ceremony. The pair pleaded guilty to conspiracy to breach immigration law at Hull Crown Court in April this year. In July, they were sentenced to prison terms of 12 months (Abiola) and 8 months (Fernandes).
Mark Bates, from the Home Office Criminal and Financial Investigation (Immigration) team, said:
“Kumoye and Abbis thought they could profit from abusing the marriage system. They were wrong.
“This case sends out a clear message to those who believe they can cheat their way around our immigration laws – we will catch you, and you will pay with your liberty.”
Immigration Minister Mark Harper said:
“We are determined to stop migrants abusing the marriage system to cheat immigration rules.
“The gangs involved in this criminal activity often have links to serious organised crime, and prey on some of society’s most vulnerable people.
“Measures outlined in the Immigration Bill include extending the marriage and civil penalty notice period to 28 days in England and Wales, and 70 days in some circumstances.
“This will give our officers and registrars more time to investigate, prosecute and remove those attempting to stage sham marriages.”
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 can contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 anonymously or visit http://www.crimestoppers-uk.org.
Photo: CCTV still image showing Kumoye with Abiola and Fernandes buying a dress on the day of the planned wedding.