GARDAI do not have the power to prevent sham marriages by asylum seekers, a judge has ruled.
The High Court decision has thrown garda plans to stop a suspected wide-ranging racket in marriages of convenience into chaos.
Mr Justice Gerard Hogan said yesterday that gardai did not have the power to object to non-EU citizens entering into marriages of convenience for immigration purposes.
He said it was up to the Oireachtas to introduce new legislation stating that a marriage of convenience was not a valid marriage.
The judge ordered the release from prison of failed asylum seeker Mahmoud Elmorsy Ads, from Eygpt, after he was arrested in Cavan at the impending nuptials in January with Lithuanian Ustinia Izmailovic, who had met him over the internet.
Gardai from the National Immigration Bureau arrested him for evasion of a deportation order and the marriage did not take place.
His lawyers subsequently brought proceedings in the High Court, at which the couple claimed to have gone through a religious marriage ceremony at a mosque on Clanbrassil Street, Dublin, then applied for a civil marriage.
The judge said yesterday that if the marriage had gone ahead, it would have been valid -- even if it was a marriage of convenience.