Saturday 21 October 2017

Manhunt underway for suspect in €15m 'sham marriage' racket

Manhunt for suspect after close associate was arrested at Dublin Airport

(Stock image)
(Stock image)

Ken Foy

A manhunt is under way for a Pakistani national who the DPP says should be charged with coercion in relation to a human trafficking and sham marriage investigation.

A probe began in 2015 when two Lithuanian women told gardai they had been forced into marriages. They were taken to Co Mayo and expected to marry Pakistani men.

The manhunt for the suspect is continuing after a close associate of his, who is facing the same charge, was arrested in possession of a fake Spanish passport at Dublin Airport last week. He is now in custody.

A nationwide Garda investigation called Operation Vantage revealed that Asian gangs who organise sham marriages have earned about €15m from desperate clients.

Operation Vantage, which was set up in August 2015, has uncovered the massive profits and the methods of the Pakistani mob as well as other gangs from the Indian subcontinent who are involved in the sham marriage racket.

On average, a man from this region who approaches one of the gangs so that he can marry an EU national to exploit Ireland’s asylum and immigration system “has to pay at least €15,000 for the wedding to be facilitated”.

The mobsters then use their criminal contacts in continental Europe to send a ‘bride’ to Ireland to marry the asylum-seeker in a registry office, with the women generally being paid about €3,000 and spending on average only three days in the country.

Gardai believe around half of the marriages in Ireland between 2013 and 2015 were bogus and solely motivated by attaining immigration status.

It is believed that more than 1,000 men arranged weddings in Ireland to European women they had never met.

Many of the men made asylum claims on arrival and, once these were lodged, they sourced ‘wives’ through the gangs.

After paying the criminals, they would be trained on what they needed to say to the Irish authorities in order to convince them the marriage was genuine.

The ‘bride and groom’ would also be given assistance in completing the paperwork required for the man to be granted EU rights.

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