Eleven arrested after sham marriage raids
Eleven people have been arrested after a crackdown on so-called sham marriages.
Forty-two searches of homes and businesses were launched by gardai as detectives attempt to gather evidence of fraud, money laundering, human trafficking and illegal immigration relating to marriages of convenience.
A stun gun and sums of cash, about 30,000 euro in total, were recovered in the raids along with compute rs, memory devices, phones, fake identity papers, driving licences and marriage certificates.
Operation Vantage was set up in August, with trends showing a large number of men from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh were notifying authorities of plans to marry women from the European Union, mainly Portugal and some parts of Eastern Europe.
As part of the investigation, a number of people subject to deportation orders were found trying to enter a sham marriage while two sex offenders were also found attempting to register to marry.
Criminals charge about 20,000 euro to secure a sham marriage in Ireland.
Gardai said it has identified gangs in Ireland and the UK who exploit asylum and immigration systems by helping to secure the marriages of convenience through false information and documentation they give to Marriage Registrars.
And the force warned there is some concern that vulnerable EU nationals may be brought to Ireland under false pretences and end up forced into a marriage for immigration purposes.
"These criminal elements are gleaning huge profits by organising residency status for non-EU nationals through these marriages of convenience," a spokesman said.
Twenty-one raids were carried out in Dublin, eight in Mayo, four in Louth, three in Kildare, two in Limerick and Longford, one in Cork and one in Meath.
The operation involved 200 gardai and is supported by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, welfare chiefs, the Revenue Commissioners, the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement and the Workplace Relations Commission to identify and prosecute any breaches of immigration, welfare, tax, employment rights or company law, the garda said.
The new marriage laws, enacted in August, allow registrars to consider whether a marriage is one of convenience.
They can examine if the marriage involves one foreigner who is allegedly agreeing to exchange vows in order to improve the chances of an immigration application.
The Garda said that 55 formal objections have been made to pending marriages under Operation Vantage and 22 people have been charged with providing false information to the registrar or using false papers.
It was also revealed that 30 planned marriages involving supposed partners from the EU and outside the EU have not gone ahead after both parties did not turn up for the service following Garda inquiries.
The Garda said it has also identified a significant number of people from outside the EU who have already secured residency rights on the back of a sham marriage or false documents.
A number of cases are being reviewed by the D epartment of Justice.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said: "Operation Vantage, assisted by officials of the immigration service of my Department, sends an unequivocal message to those who would abuse our immigration laws that their actions will not be tolerated.
"All necessary enforcement measures will be taken against such persons. They can expect to face the full force of our criminal and immigration laws."
Ms Fitzgerald described some of the patterns of marriage seen in Ireland as improbable.
"I am also increasingly concerned that in some instances women may be trafficked to Ireland with a view to being forced into sham marriages," she said.
"Any such cases are thoroughly investigated by the Garda authorities as a criminal matter and the introduction of this legislation is an essential addition in deterring such