United Kingdom: Sham Marriage Trade Continues

Despite new rules targeting the sham marriage industry, the trade in fake marriages for immigration fraud purposes appears to continue online.

In March, the British Home Office said its new rules against sham marriages represented the “biggest shake-up in a generation":

1. The waiting period for couples wishing to get married was nearly doubled to 28 days, with investigators allowed to increase that to 70 days if fraud is suspected.

2. European Union nationals who take part in sham marriages for cash can be banned from re-entering the United Kingdom (UK).

Although months have passed since the changes were made, criminals are still advertising fake marriages for immigration fraud purposes on UK-based sites. OCCRP found a number of such ads on a Russian-language classifieds site, nahodka.co.uk

One advertisement posted offers “Fictitious Marriage” for the purposes of obtaining citizenship in the European Union.

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Another ad on the same site states “I offer marriage to women to obtain citizenship of the European Union”.

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Yet another says “I am looking for a guy with an EU passport for fb”. Fiktivnyiy Brak means fictitious marriage in Russian.

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Similar offers are made daily on internet sites in Russia, such as the “Club22340220 – Urgent Fictitious Marriage” forum on popular Russian social network VKontakte, which is similar to Facebook. One ad posted to the forum in June promises “European citizenship through a fictitious marriage.Germany, Greece, Switzerland.For Males and Females. Within a period of 3 years. Protected against immigration checks…From  [US$] 10,000.”

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An undercover documentary by ITV this month shed light on the sham marriage industry, leading to a parliamentary investigation.

A Home Office spokesperson declined to comment on the specific ads, but said, "The criminal gangs who try to cheat their way around our immigration laws will not escape justice.”

The spokesperson said the Immigration Act “gives us a much stronger platform to identify, disrupt and deter sham marriages. In the last year we intervened in more than 2,900 suspected sham marriages — double the year before. And since March — when new powers came into effect — we have made more than 230 arrests and removed 150 people from the UK.”

A spokesperson from Nahodka.co.uk said “Nahodka.co.uk is a public ads website and sometimes people are posting fraudulent ads. Yes, we are aware and we're removing such ads as soon as we identify them (or they're reported to us).”