Sussex

Bride given dress in St Leonards 'marriage scam'

The Rev Alex Brown leaving Lewes Crown Court at an earlier hearing
Image caption The Reverend Alex Brown is accused of running a massive immigration scam

A woman was paid £2,000 and given a wedding dress for her wedding to an African man as part of an immigration scam run by a vicar, a jury has heard.

Lithuanian Elvyra Ziogeviciene was giving evidence during the trial of the Reverend Alex Brown, 61, of Blomfield Road, St Leonards, East Sussex.

She said she had not intended to live with her new husband, Peter Ojo.

Mr Brown and two co-defendants deny conspiring to facilitate illegal immigration at Lewes Crown Court.

Ms Ziogeviciene said she went to Debenhams in Hastings to buy the dress with her husband-to-be and his associate.

But she said she felt "ashamed" of what was happening and the men chose the dress for her because she "wasn't bothered".

Moments before the wedding, in a car outside the Church of St Peter and St Paul in St Leonards, Mr Ojo gave her £2,000 in cash, jurors heard.

After the wedding she went back to her home with a friend rather than with her new husband, the court was told.

Shortly after the wedding, Mr Ojo and his associate arrived at her home to collect the dress - "probably to take it back," she said.

When asked if there were any marriage celebrations after the ceremony on 15 July 2006, she said through an interpreter: "You're joking. There was no celebration."

Divorcee Ms Ziogeviciene told the court she had not seen Mr Ojo for "quite a while" and neither lived with nor intended to live with him as man and wife.

She said she bought a car with the cash but denied she deliberately ensnared Mr Ojo because she wanted to marry "a rich African man".

'Alias used'

She said a man called Kaido Maesalu had suggested she might marry for cash 18 months after she arrived in the UK and she agreed.

She said: "I thought I would help him as Kaido explained that I will benefit and I will help someone else and he would get a legal job.

"I didn't offer to marry. I got the money and I know it was wrong."

Co-defendant Vladymyr Buchak, 33, of Anglesea Terrace, a Ukrainian national, used the name of Kaido Maesalu as an alias, jurors heard.

A third defendant, Michael Adelasoye, 50, of St Matthews Drive, was a solicitor who specialised in immigration law and advised the participants, the court was told.

It is claimed the wedding was one of 383 carried out at the church from 2005 to 2009, most of which were sham marriages conducted as part of a "massive scam".

The case continues.

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