The man, 32, has now been sent back to Nigeria, and the woman, 22, is on bail until November 7. UK immigration officers said the woman may have married for cash on three separate occasions, Sky News reported yesterday.
Police interrupted the marriage in front of guests and took the bride and groom for questioning separately. It emerged that they knew little about each other and that the man was working in the UK illegally.
Harrow Council leader Susan Hall said: ‘It is appalling to see the lengths some people go to in dressing up and organizing guests for a sham marriage. “A marriage is supposed to be the happiest day in your life.
Well, in this case, the couple certainly got a day they won’t forget.” It is reported that up to one in five marriages conducted in civil ceremonies in parts of UK may be bogus, one of Britain’s most senior registrars has warned.
In an interview with Sky News, Mark Rimmer, the chairman of the Local Registration Services Association, said 20% of weddings in urban areas were suspicious – the worst it has ever been. Home Office figures show the number of reported cases has tripled in the last three years to 1,800.
But Rimmer said the number of sham marriages – which were likely an attempt to gain residence in the UK – reported to the authorities was “the tip of the iceberg” and that official figures are a “drop in the ocean” compared with the full scale of the problem.
He said the issue is now worse than in 2004 when the first legislation to combat the phenomenon was introduced and that registrars have to conduct ceremonies they suspect to be bogus “through gritted teeth”.
“We have seen huge increases in potential sham marriages presenting themselves to us, we now have more reports from registrars going to the Home Office, but I think that is the tip of a very large iceberg, and effectively the real scale of the problem is far greater than that that is reported to the Home Office officially.
“Most registration officers are not immigration officers, they came into this business to facilitate marriage. So therefore they don’t want to be cynical.
“Unfortunately therefore what happens is the ones that are absolutely blatant get reported and there are some that are borderline that slip through without being reported – and that is the iceberg under the water and that’s huge – it is absolutely huge.
Rimmer suggested that overall 15,000 of the 173,000 civil weddings that take place each year in England and Wales could be bogus – almost 10 times the official level.