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East London vicar sentenced to 4-1/2 years imprisonment for immigration fraud: The Church of England Newspaper, April 13, 2012, p 3. April 17, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Marriage.
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The Inner London Crown Court has sentenced the Rev. Brian Shipsides to four-and-a-half years imprisonment for immigration fraud.

On 3 April 2012 the court passed sentence on Mr. Shipsides, vicar of All Saints Church in Forest Gate in East London and his co-defendant, Ms. Amdudalat Ladipo, following their 22 Feb 2012 conviction 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.

A second co-defendant, the parish curate the Rev. Elwon John, was exonerated by the court and found to have had no knowledge or role in the immigration fraud scheme

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.  An examination of the church’s records led to the arrest of the two priests and Ms Lapido.

Ms. Ladipo, who served as the “fixer” – arranging the false marriages between EU residents and immigrants seeking British residency – has been jailed for three years.

According to prosecutors, Mr. Shipsides exploited a “loophole” in British law where those marrying in the Church of England are not required to obtain a certificate of approval from the Home Office ahead of a marriage.

The prosecution stated “most of the so-called couples participating in those marriage ceremonies were not actually couples at all and they were not married in that church because they wished to spend their lives together and sought the blessing of the church upon their union.”

“Rather, it is clear that most of the persons married at All Saints Church, Forest Gate, during the indictment period went through a ceremony of marriage for very different reasons – for the purposes of this immigration scam whose ultimate purpose was to enable one of the persons participating in the ceremony to obtain enhanced rights to enter and live in the United Kingdom,” prosecutor David Walbank told the court.

Mr. Shipsides hid the magnitude of his crimes from his congregation and the diocese by not reading the banns of marriage, and pocketing the fees from the marriage.  However, the sharp rise in marriages reported led to questions by the diocese.

“In at least one instance, such a concern was felt about one particular wedding that Rev. Shipsides was instructed [by the diocese] in terms that it should not go ahead,” Mr. Walbank said.

“He responded in due course that he had cancelled that wedding. That was a lie. He had in fact gone ahead and conducted the ceremony despite being instructed not to do so,” the prosecutor said.

Mr Shipsides conduct left the Church of England “open to abuse by those cynical and unscrupulous enough” to exploit marriage laws, he said.

In handing down his sentence, Judge Peter Grobel told Mr. Shipsides: “Your important role in this conspiracy was a disgraceful abuse of your calling as an ordained minister of the Church.  This was a conspiracy to breach the United Kingdom’s immigration laws by arranging sham marriages.”

“These marriages took place in your church. Your church where you had been the priest in charge for many years,” the judge said, adding “your criminal conduct appears to have been motivated as much by arrogance as by greed.”

“There really is no mitigation in respect of this type of offending which undermines UK immigration law, threatens the benefit system and exploits the lives of many vulnerable and desperate people,” the judge held.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

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.

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.