Pair jailed for sham marriage

28 February 2011, 12:44 | Updated: 8 March 2011, 12:36

As a wedding couple they hardly seemed bested suited for life together.

For a start register office staff noticed Bilal Bashir 23 from Pakistan and his 'bride,' Slovakian Bozena Horvatova, 24, couldn't understand one another.

Suspicions that the couple were about to take part in a sham marriage were raised when the couple couldn't agree on where and when they had first met.

And Bashir couldn't even pronounce his 'fiancee's' name correctly.

As a result officers from the UK Border Agency's Immigration Crime Team were alerted and rushed to the register office in Luton, Bedfordshire just before the pair were due to marry.

At Luton crown court on Friday (February 25th) the the the pair were each jailed for a year for plotting to stage a sham marriage in Luton on November 2 last year.

The court heard Bashir, a Pakistan national had paid £5,000 pound to wed Horvatova so that he could stay in the country.

Horvatova, who was a UK resident had been promised money to help her with her financial difficulties if she agreed to the wedding.

Bashir of Connaught Road, Luton and Horvatova of Efebe Road, Margate, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to facilitate the unlawful leave to remain in the UK by a non-EU national.

Philip Levy prosecuting told the court that staff at the register office in George Street West in Luton, did not believe the marriage was genuine soon after the couple had arrived.

He said both lived apart and they could not understand each other.

The court heard that Bashir had paid a fixer to arrange the marriage.

He was staying illegally in the Uk after his visa had expired and he hoped his marriage to an EU national would help his bid to gain long term residency in the UK with the right to work and claim benefits.

Both had no previous convictions although Bozena had been cautioned for stealing food.

Brian Argyle defending Bashir said he was "A man from a well respected family."

He told the court Bashir had a younger sister studying to be a doctor and a brother studying I.T.

He said the defendant had left Pakistan at the age of 20 to study Economics at Victoria College in East London and was eligible to stay in the country with his student visa until 12 August 2010.

The barrister said it had been a "dreadful experience" for his client and added "He is a person who has got caught up in this and it was entirely out of character."

Mr Carl Woolf defending Horvatova told the court "She was somebody that had been taken advantage of."

He said when she came to the Uk she had "sought to become a law abiding citizen."

Mr Woolf said she had been approached by others who used her weakness and financial problems to draw her into the conspiracy.

"Her desperate financial situation had allowed her to be taken in," the barrister said.

The court heard she had been given £400 as a down payment to take part in the sham marriage and had been promised £5,000 later.

Mr Woolf said it was unlikely she would have received anymore.

"What is promised to an individual often after the marriage takes place does not materialize," he said.

Judge Barbara Mensah told the defendants "Both of you were doing it for a personal benefit, Mr Bashir to stay in the country, Mrs Horvatova to make some money."

She said that both were "undermining the immigration authority" as well as "debasing"  the institution of marriage.

The judge said there had been planning "high levels of deception."

"You were equally culpable in conduct and equally wrong. A strong message needs to be sent out."

They were each sentenced to 12 months imprisonment.

After the case Ian Williams, from the UK Border Agency's Immigration Crime Team, said: "Horvatova and Bashir are no one's idea of a loving couple. You would expect the bride and groom in a genuine marriage to know each other inside out, but not only could they not agree on when and where they first met, they also failed to give accurate information on where the other lived.

"Bashir could not even pronounce his fiancee's name correctly."

 Bilal BashirBozena Horatova