Forest Gate vicars in ‘sham marriages plot’
Court told of major operation to help migrants stay
A Forest Gate vicar and a Nigerian woman were part of a “massive and systematic” plot arranging hundreds of sham of marriages to help African immigrants stay in Britain illegally, a court has heard.
Rev Elwon John, 54, and Amdudalat Ladipo, 31, hooked up EU residents with mainly Nigerian spouses, it is claimed.
John was arrested in August 2010 at his vicarage home, while Ladipo was caught in a swoop at All Saints Church in Stratford on July 31, 2010, Inner London Crown Court heard.
The pair deny the conspiracy,
David Walbank, prosecuting, said: “This case involves a massive and systematic immigration fraud.”
He said by marrying an EU national, in this case largely people from Portugal and The Netherlands, the non-EU citizens took on the same rights of residence and to work.
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He said the Crown’s case is the sham marriages took place over two and a half years.
Most of the so-called couples participating weren’t couples at all. The sham marriage ceremonies at All Saints Church on Romford Road - and there were hundreds - were for the purpose of an immigration scam, he said.
A strikingly high proportion of the non EU citizens subsequently made, “surprise surprise”, applications to the Home Office, relying on their “marriage” to rights in this country to which they would not otherwise have been entitled.
The prosecutor said John, a British citizen originally from Pakistan, is a curate ordained in the Church of England who is “deeply involved” in the scam.
He conducted a “large number of sham marriages”, added the barrister.
Ladipo was the “marriage fixer” who is herself an illegal immigrant who bought her right to stay with a marriage to a Dutchman at the same church, on February 13, 2010, Mr Walbank added.
John has been suspended from duties at All Saints Church in Romford Road and St Edmund’s in Katherine Road by the Church of England.
John, of Kennedy Road, Barking, and Ladipo, of Grosvenor Road, Dagenham, deny conspiracy to facilitate breaches of immigration laws between December 28 2007 and August 4, 2010.
Ladipo alone further denies possessing a false Nigerian passport.
Mr Walbank described Ladipo as a “prolific and resourceful liar” who had previously fabricated a story to the authorities in her initial failed bid to enter the UK.
She was put straight back on an aeroplane back to Nigeria when she arrived here in March 2005 with her six-year-old son.
In an appeal she claimed the refusal was “affecting me psychologically”, adding that the authorities forced her to confess she was there as an economic migrant.
The Home Office finally refused her appeal four months after her arrest, after voiding the marriage.
They had evidence that the “banns of marriage” which are required to be announced on three consecutive weeks before the wedding, had not been read.
This was the same as with many of the marriages, including a queue of disappointed candidates who had been waiting to wed on the afternoon of July 31.
The barrister told the jury they would see examples of Ladipo’s lies “again and again” during the trial, including her defence.
During her interview with police, she claimed her Dutch husband Faizel Armani Ishak forced her into the fraud when she was living in Streatham, southwest London.
The barrister said: “She accepted she had knowingly participated in an immigration scam involving sham marriages, but she claimed she had done so under duress from her husband Ishak.”
Mr Walbank told the jury they could “safely and confidently dismiss” her explanation
He added: “Whilst it’s plain she had gone through a ceremony of marriage which appeared to be a sham in February, by July her role was much wider and deeper than that.
“No doubt, by 31 July, she had been involved in a large number of sham marriages.”
The trial continues.
The Rev Brian Shipsides appears in the Guinness Book of World Records.
It is for officiating at the nuptials of the tallest married couple in 2001.
Shipsides, of Claremont Road, Forest Gate, has admitted conspiracy to facilitate breaches of immigration laws between December 28, 2007 and August 4, 2010 at Inner London Crown.
His part was revealed in court as the Rev John and Ladipo went on trial.
Shipsides will be sentenced following the trial’s conclusion.
He too has been suspended from his duties by the Church of England.