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Immigration fraud trial begins for Chelmsford curate: The Church of England Newspaper, February 3, 2012, p 7. February 10, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Crime, Immigration, Marriage.
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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The trial of a Diocese of Chelmsford clergyman and his accomplice on charges of immigration fraud began last week at the Inner London Crown Court.

The Rev. Elwon John and Amdudalat Ladipo, an illegal immigrant from Nigeria, are accused of having conducted and facilitated approximately 200 sham marriages for a fee to assist illegal immigrants to remain in Britain.

Mr. John (44) is charged with having performed the marriages in concert with the Rev. Brian Shipsides (55) at All Saints Church in Forest Gate in east London, the Crown Prosecution Service told jurors.  Ms. Lapido (31) is alleged to have served as the go between the clergymen and the illegal immigrants.

Mr. Shipsides entered a guilty plea at the start of the trial, while the two other defendants have pled not guilty.

On March 13, 2011 the Crown Prosecution Service presented formal charges against the two clergymen and Ms. Lapido of conspiring to facilitate entry and to obtain indefinite leave to remain in the UK in breach of immigration law by allegedly conducting approximately 200 sham marriages between December 2007 and July 2010.

After having received a tip that the parish church was being used to conduct the sham marriages, officers of the Metropolitan Police and the U.K. Border Agency raided the church on 31 July 2010.  They found Ms. Lapido at the church, allegedly waiting to witness a marriage of friends.

The defendant allegedly tried to dispose of a package she was carrying which the police recovered and found contained forged identity documents.  An examination of the church’s records led to the arrest of the two priests.

In his opening remarks Mr. David Walbank, prosecuting for the Crown stated the case against the defendants involved a “massive and systematic immigration fraud” centered at “one particular parish church in the east of London, All Saints Church in Forest Gate.”

The Crown will seek to prove that over a two-and-a-half year period almost 200 sham marriages were “entered in to for the purpose of immigration” with “most of the so-called couples participated in these marriage ceremonies were not actually couples at all.”

Illegal immigrants “married [to EU residents] in that church not because they wished to spend their lives together and wanted the blessing of the church, most of the persons married there for a very different reason.  Their ultimate purpose was to obtain enhanced rights to enter and live in the United Kingdom.”

The trial is expected to last for four weeks.  Last week Manchester vicar, the Rev. Canon Patrick Magumba, was jailed for 30 months for having conducted sham marriages at his church in Rochdale.  In 2010 the Rev. Alex Brown was convicted of having conducted almost 200 sham marriages at his East Sussex church, while the vicar of St Jude with St Aidan Church in Thornton Heath, Mr. Nathan Ntege, was arrested in August 2011 on suspicion of conducting fraudulent marriages and is awaiting trial.

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