A bigamist has been jailed for 15 months for her part in an attempted sham marriage at a register office.
Ayesha Mullan was sentenced at Downpatrick Crown Court yesterday, more than a year after she was arrested in the Co Down town.
The 26-year-old from Leicester was arrested when officers from the UK Border Agency (UKBA) disrupted a wedding at Downpatrick Register Office on October 5, 2011.
On that date, Mullan had flown to Belfast with Salauddin Daudbhai Bhadki, a 38-year-old from India.
They had met just twice previously. The pair then travelled on to Downpatrick, where the wedding was due to take place.
During questioning, Mullan admitted marrying men in sham marriages in the UK and India, |following brief meetings with her prospective grooms.
Sham marriages typically occur when a non-European national marries someone from the EU to secure long-term residency, and the right to work and claim |benefits in the UK.
Mullan also told officers from the UK Border Agency that she had been married to a British man since 2010.
Last November she pleaded guilty to conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and bigamy.
Andrea Anderson from the UK Border Agency said: “This woman thought she could abuse the |immigration rules and evade justice by arranging a sham marriage at a location where she was not known.”
Her conviction sends out the message that Northern Ireland was not an easy target for such |offences, Ms Anderson added.
“As this case shows, Northern Ireland is not a soft touch for this type of crime and we will prosecute those fraudsters who facilitate illegal immigration, as well as those who have no right to be in the UK,” she said.
Salauddin Daudbhai Bhadki, Mullan’s would-be groom, was sentenced to 15 months jail at Downpatrick Crown Court last year after pleading guilty to immigration offences.
He has since been deported from the UK.
The case was the latest in a |series of attempted sham |marriages in Northern Ireland carried out by people who |travelled to the region for the |explicit purpose of abusing the immigration rules.
In July 2011 two men, originally from Pakistan, were jailed for their part in a sham marriage in Banbridge. Two Latvian women were also convicted over the scam.