Marriage Scam Men Jailed

A solicitor was jailed for ten years today for running an immigration sham marriage scam estimated to be worth £20 million.

Tevfick Souleiman was told he had let down his profession and destroyed the trust placed in lawyers.

Judge John Bevan said members of Souleiman GA solicitors had run a "conveyor belt" of brides being flown in from eastern European countries.

They would marry men they had never met from non-EU countries and be flown out the next day after being paid by the north London firm.

Souleiman, 39, from Hatfield, Hertfordshire, was found guilty last week of conspiracy to breach immigration law and receiving the proceeds of crime.

Immigration advisers Cenk Guclu, 41, of Enfield, and Furrah Kosimov, 29, from Wembley, both north London - who disappeared while on bail - were jailed for nine years for their parts in the scam.

Another of the firm's immigration advisers, Zafer Altinbas, 38, of Islington, north London, pleaded guilty and was jailed for six years and nine months.

Judge Bevan it would be hard to find a similar scam on the same scale and sophistication.

The men had taken advantage of the pressure the UK Border Agency was under and the complexity of EU law to create frauds "that would be obvious to a child".

Sham marriages were created "on an industrial scale".

Judge Bevan added:

"A heavy responsibility for upholding the law rests with the lawyers.

"If the public cannot trust them, who can they trust. You have destroyed that trust by driving a coach and horses through these rules."

An estimated 1,800 men, including members of the Albanian mafia, were able to live in Britain by taking part in sham marriages over eight years.

Women from eastern European countries were flown to Britain to marry men from outside the EU.

They turned up at register offices having never met, and were sometimes unable to speak a common language.

Men would pay up to £14,000 to Souleiman GA Solicitors for a marriage package.

This would include fake tenancy agreements, employer's references and forged documents.

And to convince officials that their marriages were genuine, there would also be a Mills and Boon-type love story scripted for them.

Clients would come in from as far as Devon and Scotland and marriages would take place in a number of registrars' offices.

Only £2m of unexplained income had been found in bank accounts. The rest is thought to have been smuggled out of the country.

Nicholas Mather, prosecuting, said the marriages were going ahead despite the regular use of same addresses and a number of errors on applications.

Mr Mather said other work of the solicitors, such as conveyancing, was legitimate.

The racket was uncovered after British police cracked an Albanian drugs and money laundering gang in London. The brothers at the head had undergone marriages arranged by the firm.

Detective Superintendent Caroline Barker said later:

"This firm was corrupt to the core.

"The individuals involved knowingly and fraudulently sought to get rich by setting up thousands of sham marriages so that people could stay in the UK illegally.

"A financial investigation is now under way to look at confiscating any assets they have made from their criminality.

"I would also like to appeal for help in tracing Farruh Kosimov, who is originally from Uzbekistan."