Immigration solicitor and others jailed for total 35 years for marriage scam

Four London men who worked for the same north London solicitors firm have been jailed for a total of nearly 35 years for their parts in a sham marriage operation during which they organised about 8,000 bogus marriages. It is believed that the scam may have netted them £20m. The Judge, Judge John Bevan said that the four men were guilty of the 'systematic perverting of the processes of the UK Border Agency over a period of years'.

On Monday February 18th 2013, Solicitor Tevfick Souleiman who ran Souleiman GA Solicitors, was jailed for ten years. His co-accused; immigration advisors Cenk Guclu and Furrah Kosimov were jailed for nine years each after a trial at London's central criminal court, The Old Bailey. A fourth man Zafer Altinbas was jailed for six years and nine months after pleading guilty.

Couples met at wedding

The court heard that the men conspired with agents and middle men to arrange for women from European member states in Eastern Europe to fly to the UK where they would marry men from outside the EU. Often the first time the couples met was at their wedding. The court heard that the men were mostly from Albania, Turkey and Pakistan. Lawyers Weekly magazine reported that 'The marriages meant the men were then able to live and claim benefits in the UK'.

The judge said that the scam had been an assault on the institution of marriage itself. He said 'This firm was corrupt to the core. The individuals involved knowingly and fraudulently sought to get rich by setting up thousands of sham marriages so that people could stay in the UK illegally'. The scam was revealed after an investigation into a shipment of £1m of cocaine revealed that millions of pounds had been put through the firm's accounts. The authorities were then led to the marriage scam. Much of the money made by the men was paid in cash, the prosecution alleged.

A cash business

The four accused were found to have created bogus evidence to support the contention that the marriages were genuine. They concocted statements on behalf of the bridegrooms explaining how they had met their wives-to-be and fallen in love. The court heard that the scam may have netted £20m for the men though the money was not paid through the books. 'This was a cash business' said the prosecuting counsel, Nicholas Mather, prosecuting counsel. Only £2m has been recovered. The rest is thought to have been taken out of the UK.

Mr Mather said that the scam was not particularly well conducted. The men made errors on applications and claimed that many of the couples lived at the same London address but were only caught because of their connection with the cocaine money.

The judge told Souleiman, 'A heavy responsibility for upholding the law rests with the lawyers. If the public cannot trust them, who can they trust?'

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