Gangs reap €15m over two years from bogus marriages
Organised gangs who organised sham marriages in Ireland are believed to have been paid more than €15m by their clients.
Gardaí believe some 1,000 sham weddings took place across the country over two years, with gangs involved making between €15,000 and €20,000 from each "client".
A sham marriage enables the 'groom' to have EU Treaty rights, meaning they can reside and work in Europe while their new brides leave within hours of the marriage.
Yesterday, more than 200 gardaí carried out 42 searches across the country which resulted in 13 arrests and seizures of false identity documents.
Half of them were at homes and business premises in Dublin, while eight swoops were in Mayo, four in Louth, three in Kildare, two each in Longford and Limerick and one each in Meath and Cork. Det Chief Supt Dave Dowling, who spearheaded Operation Vantage, said last night: "This is only the first phase of what will be a long- term operation. We are working closely with other agencies to investigate these abuses, including using marriages of convenience to secure an immigration advantage."
Three convicted sex offenders were among those arrested.
The raids occurred after senior gardaí and officials within the Department of Justice became concerned earlier in the year at unusual trends in asylum applications.
The Irish Independent revealed last July that the number of applications from young male Pakistanis had increased ninefold, from 91 in the first seven months of last year to over 800 in the corresponding period in 2015.
This has since increased to more than 1,000 applications.
Inquiries established that criminal networks, operating here and in the UK, were behind the scams involving bogus marriages between men from Pakistan, Bangladesh and India, and women from Portugal and eastern Europe, particularly Latvia.
A loophole had existed in the law for the past few years after the High Court struck down legislation, which had allowed gardaí to combat the abuses.
But a new law, introduced by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald in July, gave widespread powers to registrars to investigate a planned marriage if suspicions had been aroused.
As a result of Operation Vantage, 55 formal objections to pending marriages were lodged while 22 people have been arrested and formally charged with providing false information to a registrar or control of false documentation.