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Solicitors 'ran immigration scam arranging thousands of sham marriages by submitting touching love stories about couples who'd only just met'Gang arranged for brides or husbands from EU to marry non EU individualsAt one stage several EU citizens a day were flown
in from Eastern EuropeThey were housed in London before going to various registry offices
16:18 GMT, 11 January 2013
18:39 GMT, 11 January 2013
A law firm invented scores of 'touching' love stories about foreign couples to convince immigration authorities that their sham marriages were real, a court heard yesterday.
Solicitor Tevfick Souleiman and three immigration advisers working for him made 'substantial' sums by forging documents to hoodwink the UK Border Agency during the eight year scam, it was alleged.
Brides were flown into Britain from eastern European EU countries to marry non-EU citizens, giving the grooms rights to live and work in the UK, the Old Bailey was told.
Accused: A solicitor and his three advisors organised thousands of sham marriages between illegal immigrants and EU Citizens, a court heard today. Defendants Tevfick Souleiman, right and Cenk Guclu, left, are pictured
In some cases the couples only met
each other at the solicitor's office on one occasion before their
wedding day and were banned from any other contact, prosecutor Nicholas
But the firm organised forged
affidavits in which they 'concocted' accounts of their supposedly
romantic courtships which were submitted to the authorities in order for
the marriages to be approved, he said.
In one, Albanian Alban Spaho,
described how he met his Bulgarian bride-to-be Petya Zlatanska while on a
day out with friends in Haringey, North London in 2008 and plucked up
the courage approach her.
The affidavit said: 'We went to a cafe
where our friends left us alone to get on with it… Petya was a bit
shy but I eventually persuaded her to let me take her out.
'We didn't go to any of the usual
Bulgarian or Albanian places in North London but instead went to a
really nice place in the West end.'
He described how the couple's love
grew and they moved in together, adding: 'After three months I realised I
wanted to be with her all the time and asked her to marry me.'
Sham: The gang arranged for brides or husbands from the UK or the EU to marry non EU individuals, the court heard. Defendant Zafer Altinbas is pictured
In fact the letter was a 'script' written by staff at the north London offices of Souleiman GA Solicitors, the prosecutor said.
In another allegedly forged affidavit a
sham marriage groom described how he met his bride a nightclub and
after they got together, he eventually proposed after a romantic meal on
One Indian student who wanted to stay
in the UK told how he was introduced to his Bulgarian bride to be at the
firm's offices when he went to ask for immigration advice
He was taken outside to have some
photos of them together taken, before being told he couldn't talk to her
until the day of their marriage, it was alleged.
The marriages were going ahead despite
the regular use of same addresses and a number of errors on
applications including names of the applicants being misspelt, the jury
The solicitor's firm also used forged tenancy agreements and employer's references, many from a company called Kebab Town.
Mr Mather said: 'They, together with
others, were part of a conspiracy to breach immigration laws in this
country by arranging sham marriages, or marriages of convenience.
'In doing so, they made a sizeable amount of money. The arrangement of these marriages was a lucrative business.
'Whatever may be recorded in the
books, substantial sums were being paid to individuals to arrange these
marriages. This was a cash business.'
Mr Mather said other work of the solicitors, such as conveyancing, was legitimate.
But he added: 'They were running not only a business but also a racket involving sham marriages.
'Substantial amounts would be paid
into personal bank accounts. Clients would pay the firm 500 in
accounts, but the actual sum was thousands of pounds. That money never
went through the books.'
Souleiman, 39, immigration advisers
Zafer Altinbas, 38, and Cenk Guclu, 41, and Furrah Kosimov, 29, deny
conspiracy to breach immigration law between 2004 and last year.
Souleiman, from Hatfield,
Hertfordshire, Altinbas, from Islington, north London, and Guclu, from
Enfield, north London, also deny receiving proceeds of crime.
Kosimov, from Wembley, north west London, who is being tried in his absence, denies money laundering.