May 19 2013 Latest news:
Monday, February 18, 2013
Workers at a north London solicitor’s firm have been jailed for a total of more than 34 years for their part in a £20million sham marriage scam to marry illegal immigrants.
Tevfick Souleiman, 39, from Hatfield in Hertfordshire was sentenced at the Old Bailey today to 10 years in prison for running the £20m scam at Souleiman GA solicitors.
Immigration advisers Cenk Guclu, 41, of Links Side, Enfield, and Furrah Kosimov, 29, from Wembley, - who disappeared while on bail - were jailed for nine years for their parts in the crime.
Souleiman, Guclu, and Kosimov were found guilty of conspiracy to breach immigration law. Guclu and Souleiman were also found guilty of receiving proceeds of crime, while Kosimov was also convicted of money laundering.
Another of the firm’s immigration advisers, Zafer Altinbas, 38, of Bemerton Street, Islington, pleaded guilty and was jailed for six years and nine months.
The court heard an estimated 1,800 men, including members of the Albanian mafia, were able to live in Britain by taking part in sham marriages over eight years.
Women from eastern European countries were flown to Britain to marry men from outside the EU.
They turned up at register offices having never met, and were sometimes unable to speak a common language.
Judge Bevan it would be hard to find a similar scam on the same scale and sophistication.
The men had taken advantage of the pressure the UK Border Agency was under and the complexity of EU law to create frauds “that would be obvious to a child”.
Sham marriages were created “on an industrial scale”.
Judge Bevan added: “A heavy responsibility for upholding the law rests with the lawyers.
“If the public cannot trust them, who can they trust. You have destroyed that trust by driving a coach and horses through these rules.”
Men would pay up to £14,000 to Souleiman GA Solicitors for a marriage package.
This would include fake tenancy agreements, employer’s references and forged documents.
And to convince officials that their marriages were genuine, there would also be a Mills and Boon-type love story scripted for them.
Clients would come in from as far as Devon and Scotland and marriages would take place in a number of registrars’ offices.
Only £2m of unexplained income had been found in bank accounts. The rest is thought to have been smuggled out of the country.
Nicholas Mather, prosecuting, said the marriages were going ahead despite the regular use of same addresses and a number of errors on applications.
Mr Mather said other work of the solicitors, such as conveyancing, was legitimate.
The racket was uncovered after British police cracked an Albanian drugs and money laundering gang in London. The brothers at the head had undergone marriages arranged by the firm.