Dozens arrested as Dutch, British police break up sham marriage gang
At least 23 Dutch nationals of Antillean origin and dozens of people in Britain have been arrested this week in an ongoing joint operation to break up a sham marriage ring, the Dutch public prosecution service said on Friday.
Sixteen women and seven men were arrested across the Netherlands on suspicion of undergoing sham marriages in England. The arrests are the result of a two-year investigation code-named Dutch Conclusion involving Dutch and British officials as well as Europol.
The probe focused on weddings involving illegal Nigerian men and women with Dutch nationality. The women, from the former Dutch Caribbean colonies, were recruited in the Netherlands and flown to Britain to get married.
Once married, the Nigerian grooms had legal residency and access to social security provisions, the Dutch public prosecutor said in a statement. The women were paid between €2,500 and €3,500 for their role.
The men could then also bring in their family under family reunion rules.
‘It is a crime against the state. In the case of the British Nigerians, we are talking about millions of euros,’ public prosecution department spokesman Warner ten Kate told Nos television.
According to Nos, officials became suspicious after noting a number of weddings between Dutch Antilleans and Nigerian men.
Over the past two years, 81 suspects have been rounded up and 66 people found guilty, the public prosecution department said. They have been given jail terms ranging from a few months to six years.
Most of the Dutch suspects have been released after questioning by police but will face human trafficking charges. More arrests cannot be ruled out in both the Netherlands and UK, the department statement said.
The BBC reported in February how a gang used day return flights from the Netherlands to carry out up to 20 sham marriages.
The Dutch nationals would arrive in Nottingham, take part in ceremonies and fly home within 24 hours. Twenty weddings took place at the same church.
Ring leader Phillips Onikoyi, 34, was jailed for five years after admitting conspiracy to breach immigration law, the BBC said. Several Dutch nationals were also jailed in that part of the operation.
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