Zimbabwean journalist jailed 10 years in UK for sham marriages scam
UNITED Kingdom-based Zimbabwean journalist and former Chronicle Sports Editor Clemence Marijeni (pictured) and 10 other accomplices have been jailed a total of 52 years and six months after they were found guilty of facilitating and participating in sham marriages between European Economic Area (EEA) nationals and non-EEA nationals in that country.
Reports from the UK yesterday said the 11 people were involved in one of the biggest sham marriage rings to be uncovered in the West Midlands.
The media reports said on September 7, 2013, a marriage was disrupted in Stoke between two individuals who later admitted that it was a sham.
A police investigation identified Olatunji George (41), Marijeni (43) and Donald Nwachukwu (42) as the key facilitators of the sham marriage.
Marijeni, who also once worked for the Tribune newspaper in Harare as Sports Editor before leaving for the UK, was sentenced to 10 years in jail for his part in the scam.
The Wolverhampton Crown Court heard how he and his accomplices would create packs for individuals that contained forged passports, wage slips and bills. They would then charge between £2 500 and £3 500 for each pack.
The trio would then submit residence card applications to the Home Office based on relationships and marriages that were not genuine.
Following three trials, the 11, including Marijeni, were last Friday found guilty and sentenced at Wolverhampton Crown Court.
The three men regarded as the driving forces behind the racket that involved at least 45 fake relationships received the longest sentences.
Nwachukwu, a senior pastor at the Kingdom of Godfire Church in Bilston, was jailed for eight years.
He used his position to identify West Africans who were in the UK illegally and ask them to pay up to £6 500 for permission to stay on the bogus grounds of being married to, or in a long term relationship with, a person from the European Union living and working in the UK.
About £153 000 worth of credits passed through bank accounts run by the pastor under a false name before he was arrested at his home in Titford Road, Oldbury.
Marijeni, from Weston Road, Bilston, was the master forger who created the fake documents to support the spurious applications for European Economic Area (EEA) residents’ cards that allowed the holder to stay in the UK and claim benefits.
Described as a “graphics expert”, he created fake histories for the West Africans and their supposed long term lovers — mainly Czech or Slovakian and promised them up to £1 800 each to take part in the plot which ran from January 2012 to March last year.
False utility bills, rent books, pay slips and employment records backed the bogus claim of a legitimate marriage or lasting relationship. Some included pictures of the pair — who were strangers — side by side in bed, fully clothed or shopping together.
Olatunji George (44) — a law student who had completed a module on immigration law — administered the operation and also got 10 years behind bars.
He claimed to be paid up to £1 000-a-time to prepare packages of the correct documents and fill in the necessary paperwork for the bogus resident’s card applications.
Jozef Puzo (28) of St Paul’s Road, Smethwick, was jailed for five years. He provided the final piece of the jigsaw by earning up to £750-a-time finding women and men from the Czech and Slovakian communities prepared to take part in the scam.
Both he and George are now on the run after fleeing during their trial but were convicted and sentenced in their absence.
Aishatu Ibrahim (25) from Oxford has also gone missing but was given three-and-a-half years and another defendant — Idris Agia (31) of Hodnet Grove, Highgate — was arrested moments before flying out of the country to Nigeria just a few days ago.
He was jailed for three-and-a-half years. The other five defendants were each jailed for between two and three-and-a-half years. All defendants were found guilty of immigration offences.