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Chelmsford curate cleared of immigration fraud charges: The Church of England Newspaper, March 2, 2012, p 3 March 7, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Marriage.
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The Inner London Crown Court has exonerated the Rev. Elwon John of charges that he committed immigration fraud.

The curate at All Saints Church in Forest Gate in East London was found to have had no knowledge or role in the immigration fraud scheme conducted by his co-defendants: the vicar, the Rev. Brian Shipsides, and the fixer, Ms. Amdudalat Ladipo.

On 22 Feb 2012 the court found Mr. Shipsides and Ms. Ladipo guilty 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, 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.  Mr. Shipside entered a guilty plea at the start of the trial, but Mr. John protested his innocence throughout – and has now been acquitted of wrongdoing.

In a statement released after the verdict was handed down, Simon Prankard, senior investigating officer at the UK Border Agency’s London Criminal and Financial Investigation team, said: “This was a long and complex enquiry into what was an organised and sophisticated attempt to cheat the UK’s immigration laws. It was also an unusual investigation, involving a church minister, Brian Shipsides, who was prepared to abuse his position and the trust placed in him by the Church and his community.”

“I hope this case sends out a message that we will not tolerate abuse of our immigration system.  Those who facilitate sham marriages are breaking the law and will be held accountable for their actions – no matter who they are.”

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

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