Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Vicar jailed over sham marriages

The Rev Canon Dr John Magumba arrives at Bolton Crown Court, where he was jailed for carrying out sham marriages

A Church of England vicar has been jailed for two and a half years after carrying out dozens of sham marriages allowing illegal immigrants to live in the UK.

The Rev Canon Dr John Magumba was taking so many weddings involving foreign nationals his diocese put him in charge of a special working party on how to handle marriages for foreigners - and how to spot sham weddings.

In fact father-of-six Magumba, originally from Uganda, "asked no questions" when marrying a stream of Nigerian men and eastern European women who began flocking to his parish in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, from across the UK to celebrate their "happy day".

The 58-year-old even told local church-goers that African worshippers did not feel comfortable around so many white parishioners so he set up separate "African services".

Churches saw the number of weddings rocket after Magumba became the team vicar for St Mary's in Rochdale, St Peter's in Newbold and St Luke's in Deeplish.

Magumba showed no emotion as sentence was passed at Bolton Crown Court after he admitted carrying out 28 sham weddings.

Passing sentence Judge William Morris told the defendant: "What you did repeatedly amounted to very serious breaches of the immigration laws of this country properly designed to prevent those with no entitlement to reside in the UK from doing so.

"Such legal restrictions are essential for the proper functioning of the state to ensure that taxpayers' money is only allocated to the needs of fellow citizens.

"Whatever your motive for facilitating the fraudulent entry into this country of these individuals, neither you or anyone else in your place, can place your conscience above the laws of this country. Your offences have brought scandal to the church and let down your family and parishioners."

Police are not sure Magumba even conducted any actual services - but instead simply filled in the marriage certificates, described as the "Golden Ticket" to illegal immigrants. Magumba later admitted to police Nigerians "would do anything in their power to come to the UK" and were "crying out" for marriage certificates, the court heard.

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