London

London solicitors 'organised sham marriage scam'

A north London firm of solicitors ran a sham marriage immigration scam for eight years, the Old Bailey has heard.

Principal solicitor Tevfick Souleiman and three immigration advisers working for him forged documents and deceived the UK Border Agency, the jury heard.

Brides were flown in from Eastern European EU countries, the court heard.

Tevfick Souleiman from Hertfordshire, Zafer Altinbas, Cenk Guclu and Furrah Kosimov, all from London, deny conspiracy to breach immigration law.

Mr Souleiman, from Hatfield and immigration advisers Mr Altinbas, from Islington, north London, and Mr Guclu, from Enfield, north London, also deny receiving proceeds of crime.

Mr Kosimov, from Wembley, north-west London, denies money-laundering.

'Lucrative business'

Nicholas Mather, prosecuting, said women from EU countries were brought to the UK to marry non-EU citizens, giving the men they married the right to live and work in the UK.

He said many of the marriages - between 2004 and last year - took place in Cambridge, a place that none of the brides and grooms had any connection with.

The marriages were going ahead despite the regular use of the same addresses and a number of errors on applications.

Forged tenancy agreements and employers' references, many from a company called Kebab Town, were used, jurors heard.

Mr Mather said: "They, together with others, were part of a conspiracy to breach immigration laws in this country by arranging sham marriages, or marriages of convenience.

"In doing so, they made a sizeable amount of money. The arrangement of these marriages was a lucrative business.

"Whatever may be recorded in the books, substantial sums were being paid to individuals to arrange these marriages. This was a cash business."

Mr Mather said those involved were either working for or were partners in Souleiman GA Solicitors.

A business consultancy linked to Mr Kosimov was based in an east London tower block where a number of the bogus marriage partners were housed, the court heard.

Mr Mather said Mr Kosimov was "at the very centre" of the conspiracy, and was taking several thousand pounds a day to make arrangements to fly in fake partners from countries such as Latvia and Lithuania.

The trial continues.

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