A PAKISTANI man's plans to walk down the aisle with a Lithuanian teenager this week were cancelled after gardai objected to the marriage.
The Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) intervened to stop Muhammad Shafi's marriage to the 18-year-old woman from going ahead.
Mr Shafi (27), of Collegeview apartments, Ballymun, Dublin, was due to marry the woman in Letterkenny, Co Donegal, on Thursday.
However, the wedding was cancelled after GNIB Det Chief Supt John O'Driscoll lodged an objection to the marriage on the basis that immigration officials believe it would be a marriage of convenience for residency purposes.
The bureau's intervention was revealed in court yesterday after Mr Shafi was fined €250. He had pleaded guilty at Blanchardstown District Court to possessing both a bogus Italian and Hungarian passport.
Det Garda Sean O'Meara told the court that Mr Shafi came under the bureau's radar as part of a larger investigation into bogus marriages between Asian men and Eastern European women.
He said that Mr Shafi was arrested as part of the investigation in to more than 100 cases of marriages or intended marriage involving women from Latvia, Lithuania and Poland who were paid to marry men from Asia in order to secure them the right of residency in Ireland and other EU countries.
It's understood that the scam involves a bogus company set up here by Asian men who advertise well-paying jobs for former Eastern bloc women.
They are supplied with false documents in order to secure residency rights for their Asian "husbands", some of whom are believed to have paid up to €10,000 for the marriage certificate.
The court heard that Mr Shafi was one of more than 20 cricket players from Pakistan who arrived here on a seven-day visa for a supposed cricket match in July, 2008, but that the entire "team" disappeared after gaining entry to the State.
The matter of so-called residency marriages was also raised by Justice Minister Dermot Ahern this weekend at an EU summit on immigration in Spain, where he said there was growing evidence of such abuse.
"The love affair between Pakistan and the Baltic states shows no sign of abating," he said.
He cited statistics last year which showed 384 applications for residency were submitted by Pakistani men. Of them, 110 were based on marriages to Latvian women, followed by 50 marriages to Polish women and 47 marriages to women from Estonia. He said the Pakistani husbands tended to be students or former students with no right to residency here.
Fine Gael's immigration spokesman Denis Naughton, meanwhile, said the case illustrated the urgent need to crack down on such sham marriages.
"In 2006, 1,207 applications for residency were made in Ireland by non-EU nationals by virtue of being married to an non-Irish EU citizen. In 2009 this figure rose to 2,116. Unusually, even though the number of EU nationals resident in Ireland is reducing, the numbers seeking residency on the basis of marriage to an EU citizen has increased by 175pc."