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Vicars held in sham marriages probe

Two clergymen suspected of officiating over sham marriages have been arrested by immigration officers.

The Rev Brian Shipsides, 54, and the Rev Elwon John, 43, were held as UK Border Agency officials and police swooped on their homes in Forest Gate, east London.

Investigators also began searching their churches, All Saints in Hampton Road, and St Edmunds in Katherine Road, for evidence.

The move followed the arrest of three people suspected of arranging a sham marriage at All Saints on Saturday.

A 27-year-old Nigerian man was held as he prepared to marry a 23-year-old Dutch woman. A 30-year-old Nigerian woman was also arrested.

Detective Inspector Karl Amos, of the London Immigration Crime Team, said suspicions about the churches were raised some time ago.

The arrests were the latest sign of a nationwide crackdown on people who conspire to remain in Britain illegally. Immigration Minister Damian Green has said the Government is determined to show the country is not a soft touch for those with no right to remain.

The 27-year-old Nigerian man has been charged with perjury, attempting to gain leave to remain by deception and identity card offences. The 30-year-old Nigerian woman was charged with conspiracy to facilitate breaches of immigration laws.

They will appear in custody at Inner London Crown Court on October 4.

The 23-year-old Dutch woman has admitted facilitation offences. She was handed a two-month suspended sentence and banned from re-entering Britain for a year.

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