Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Three foreign nationals convicted over sham marriages

Portuguese woman among three who were found guilty

Catia Sofia Lima, who was found guilty in connection with a sham marriage sham at Antrim Crown Court. Pic: Mark Jamieson
Catia Sofia Lima, who was found guilty in connection with a sham marriage sham at Antrim Crown Court. Pic: Mark Jamieson
Catia Sofia Lima, who was found guilty in connection with a sham marriage sham at Antrim Crown Court. Pic: Mark Jamieson
Catia Sofia Lima, who was found guilty in connection with a sham marriage sham at Antrim Crown Court. Pic: Mark Jamieson
Mostafizur Raham, who was found guilty at Antrim Crown Court in connection with a sham marriage scam
Mostafizur Raham, who was found guilty at Antrim Crown Court in connection with a sham marriage scam

Three foreign nationals have been convicted for their involvement in sham marriages, including a so-called 'fixer' who helped set up the bogus ceremonies to obtain UK residency permits.

It took the Antrim Crown Court jury of seven men and four women five hours over two days to convict 43-year-old Wahidul Islam, who failed to show for the last days of his week-and-a-half long trial.

The Bangladeshi chef who organised sham marriages including his own was convicted in his absence yesterday.

Islam, with an address in Tates Avenue, Belfast, who married a Portuguese woman in the Irish Republic in 2009, was convicted along with a Bangladeshi workmate and his Portuguese wife on charges arising out of their marriage in June 2011.

Trial Judge Alastair Devlin issued an arrest warrant for the chef, who already faces deportation.

He was arrested by police as yet another Bangladeshi man and his would-be Portuguese bride were about to be married in Larne on April 16 last year.

By their majority verdicts the jury accepted the case of prosecution lawyer Neil Connor who claimed that the Larne ceremony "would have been a sham marriage, this was not a bona-fide marriage", and that Islam was present in an "organisational capacity, he was the organiser".

They also appear to have rejected Islam's claims that it was "pure chance" that all three marriages he took part in, including his own to a woman half his age, involved brides from Portugal and grooms from Bangladesh.

It was also a coincidence that besides his own Co Louth wedding, the other two were held at the same Co Antrim location.

He was found guilty of three charges involving dishonestly obtaining a UK visa for himself and two charges of attempting to assist illegal entry into the UK, by either organising or taking part in the sham weddings.

Islam's co-accused M Mostafizur Rahman (24), and his 32-year-old wife Catia Sofia Lima, claimed that they married "for love" and while they did not even spend their wedding night together, told their trial that in the future they will "have so many nights together".

The couple, who live apart, were convicted of charges arising out of their wedding at which Islam, who worked with Rahman, had been a witness.

Rahman, with an address given as Willowfield Drive, Belfast, was convicted of dishonestly obtaining a UK visa in July 2011, while his wife with an address at Long Acre House in London, was found guilty of assisting his residency by marrying him the previous month.

The couple, who were remanded into custody after Judge Devlin said he could not ignore "the possible risk of flight", will be sentenced in September along with another, 30-year-old Bangladeshi man, Mohammad Abdur Raham, of Abbey Street, Bangor, and 27-year-old Portuguese woman, Naydyne Sally Aguiar-Gomes-Botelho, of Cliftonville Road, Belfast.

They both pleaded guilty before the start of the trial to charges arising out of their would-be "marriage of convenience" which was broken-up with the arrival of the police.

Following their arrest and that of Islam, police went to search his then east Belfast home in Earlswood Road.

It was at this address they found Rahman, home alone and no sign of his bride Ms Lima.

It was this situation which triggered the investigation by the authorities into their relationship, and the resulting trial along with Islam.

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