Sham wedding party sentenced in Sheffield
23 March 2011
A entire wedding party arrested in Sheffield city centre in September 2010 have been jailed. Immigration officers acting on intelligence discovered that the entire wedding party was an organised sham marriage designed to assist Sajid Ali, from Pakistan, to obtain immigration in the UK. The bogus bride and groom and their party of three were arrested by officers attempting an immigration scam involving hastily purchased wedding rings worth £33, an interpreter to help them communicate and, £1,900 in cash.
All 5 were sentenced for immigration offences at Sheffield Crown Court on 18 March:
- the bride – Renata Toracova, 37, from Slovakia – was sentenced to 8 months;
- the groom – Sajid Ali, 31, from Pakistan (in the UK on a student visa) – was sentenced to 12 months;
- Ali’s interpreter – Mahtab Khan, 37, from Pakistan (with permission to stay in UK) – was sentenced to 46 weeks;
- Toracova’s interpreter – Ladislav Mizigar, 40, of Slovakia – was sentenced to 9 months; and
- Slovak interpreter – Michal Gazi, 22, from Slovakia – was sentenced to 9 months.
Sham marriages typically occur when a non-European national marries a European citizen in an attempt to try to gain long-term residency and the right to work in the UK. All 5 were arrested just moments before their wedding at Sheffield town hall on the morning of 10 September 2010, following an intelligence-led operation by a UK Border Agency specialist immigration crime team.
The officers recovered 2 wedding bands still in an Argos shopping bag and a torn-out page from the catalogue featuring the rings. They also found a receipt which led them to CCTV footage of the party buying the rings in Meadowhall Shopping Centre hours before they were due to marry. Officers recovered £1,400 from Mahtab Khan – which the bride later claimed she was owed for her part in the scam, having already been paid £500 upfront. Khan claimed he withdrew the £1,400 from a bank minutes before the ceremony for ‘gifts and clothes’.
Neither bride nor groom could communicate with one another, and they later admitted that they could not speak each other’s languages.
During questioning, Renata Toracova admitted that she was already married in Slovakia and that her witness, Mizigar, was actually her lover here in the UK. She added that she had only entered into the scam because she had debts of £500. Sajid Ali explained that he was a student at a London college, but had only attended for 1 month before moving to Sheffield; he was looking for a way to stay in the UK as he was no longer studying. Both Toracova and Ali pleaded guilty. Ladislav Mizigar admitted to having known Ali for just 20 minutes, only meeting him the day he was picked up for the ceremony.
Evidence recovered from Khan and Ali’s mobile phones showed text messages containing the bride and groom’s names, dates of birth and passport numbers. Gazi, a ‘wedding guest’, was found to live at the same address as Toracova and her boyfriend Mizigar.
All 5 pleaded guilty to 1 count of conspiring to breach immigration law. Breaches of some immigration laws are now criminal offences and are being prosecuted under the new crackdown on sham immigration marriages. In recent years the UK Border Agency has clamped down on sham and false marriages, introducing family permits and encouraging registrars to highlight suspicious cases. Under the current rules, anyone trying to cheat the system can be imprisoned for up to 7 years.
If you have an immigration issue that you need help with or are considering coming to the UK to study, work or live, you can contact us on 020 8401 7352 for a free 30 minute telephone assessment of your circumstances and to obtain advice about your situation.