London

Two east London clergymen held in sham marriages probe

Two clergymen have been held by immigration officials as part of an inquiry into sham marriages in London.

The Reverend Brian Shipsides, 54, and the Reverend Elwon John, 43, were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to breach immigration law.

Two churches in Forest Gate, east London, are being searched by police.

Two Nigerians have been charged with immigration offences over an alleged sham marriage at one of those churches, All Saints, on Saturday.

A 27-year-old man has been charged with perjury, trying to gain leave to remain by deception and identity card offences, while a 30-year-old woman is accused of conspiracy to facilitate breaches of immigration laws.

A Dutch woman, 23, has admitted facilitation offences at Stratford Magistrates Court and been handed a two-month suspended sentence. She was banned from the UK for a year.

The two Forest Gate churches which are being searched, All Saints and St Edmunds, operate together, with Mr Shipsides being the priest in charge while Mr John is an associate minister for both churches.

'Clear policy'

Mr Shipsides, who was arrested at his vicarage, is also being questioned on suspicion of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Neither man has been charged with any offence.

Det Insp Karl Amos, of the London Immigration Crime Team, said: "Today's arrests were part of an ongoing investigation into suspected sham marriages at a church in Forest Gate.

"We have also carried out searches at a number of addresses and will now seek to examine closely the evidence that we have recovered."

He added: "Our policy is clear - if we uncover evidence that a wedding may not be genuine we will investigate and, if appropriate, take action against those involved."

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