Islington legal firm employee among those jailed over sham marriage scam
- Credit: Archant
An immigration advisor from Islington is among a group of four men at a corrupt solicitors’ firm jailed for a £2million fake marriage scam this week.
Zafer Altinbas, 38, of Bemerton Street, was sentenced on Monday to six years and nine months behind bars after admitting his part in the huge operation which enabled an estimated 1,800 illegal immigrants to obtain British passports through sham marriages between 2004 and 2011.
Tevflick Souleiman, 39, who ran the conspiracy from his north London firm Souleiman GA – the precise location of which cannot be revealed – was sentenced to 10 years in prison, while two other immigration advisors, Cenk Guclu, 41, and Furrah Kosimov, 29, were both sentenced to nine years.
During an Old Bailey trial, the court was told how woman from eastern European countries were flown to the UK on an “industrial scale” to marry men from outside the EU, including members of the Albanian ‘mafia’.
Prosecutor Nicholas Mather said the couples turned up at registry offices having never met, and were sometimes unable to speak a common language. And to convince officials that their marriages were genuine, there would also be a Mills and Boon-type love story scripted for them.
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Men would pay up to £14,000 to Souleiman GA Solicitors for a marriage package which would include fake tenancy agreements, employer’s references and forged documents.
Judge John Bevan it would be hard to find a similar scam on the same scale and sophistication.
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He added: “A heavy responsibility for upholding the law rests with the lawyers.
“If the public cannot trust them, who can they trust. You have destroyed that trust by driving a coach and horses through these rules.”
Only £2million of unexplained income has been found in bank accounts – the rest is thought to have been smuggled out of the country.
The racket was uncovered in 2010 after police cracked an Albanian drugs and money laundering gang in London.
Det Sup Caroline Barker, from the MPS Central Task Force, said: “This firm was corrupt to the core; the individuals involved knowingly and fraudulently sought to get rich by setting up thousands of sham marriages so that people could stay in the UK illegally, and then going on to defraud HMRC by faking payments to non-existent employees. A financial investigation is now underway to look at confiscating any assets they have made from their criminality”
Souleiman, of Georges Wood Road, Hatfield, was found guilty of conspiracy to facilitate the commission of a breach of UK Immigration Law, and money laundering. Guclu, of Links Side, Enfield and Kosimov, of no fixed abode, were found guilty of conspiracy to facilitate the commission of a breach of UK Immigration Law, and money laundering.
Altinbas initially denied money laundering but pleaded guilty during the course of the trial.
Police have also appealed for help in tracing Kosimov, who absconded while on bail. Anyone with information should contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.