The UK’s largest ever sham marriages trial begins with prosecution claims that bogus weddings at a church in south London were conducted on an “industrial scale”.
A jury at inner London crown court heard that the CofE church of St Jude and St Aiden in Croydon went from having six weddings a year to six a day, with over 200 in 2010.
Prosecutor Edward Lucas said over six years there were 494 sham marriages, and since the arrest of the vicar, Reverend Nathan Ntege, there been only one in 2014.
The jury was told that many of the weddings involving non EEA immigrants were farcical, with brides sharing the same wedding dress and queuing up at the back of the church to be married with no guests present.
Mr Lucas said: “Couples were simply processed by the reverend and his team like a matrimonial conveyor belt.”
The jury heard the weddings were nothing more than a cynical attempt at by passing the UK’s system of border control.
The court was told the church’s elderly verger, Brian Miller, was pictured in many of the weddings photos to give them legitimacy, and was to say “the marriages are technically correct by morally bankrupt”.
Reverend Ntege, verger Brian Miller, church secretary Maudlyn Riviere, alleged fixers Galena Petkova and Georgia Forteath, all deny a total of 15 charges of breaching immigration laws.