Tuesday 23 August 2011

Sham groom only knew fiancee was 'big, black and liked chicken burgers

Mojeed Bello, an illegal immigrant, had arranged to marry Dutch national Carina Merselina at a parish church in Gloucester so that he could continue living in Britain.
But the lack of romance between the couple rang alarm bells with Rev Robert Simpson, vicar of St James, Gloucester, when they met him to arrange the ceremony, Gloucester crown court.
The vicar was not satisfied that the relationship between Bello and Merselina was a genuine one and he reported his concerns to the police, said prosecutor Martin Steen.
He then went to check on the address the couple had given in nearby Barton street, Gloucester.
"When he got to the flat he found it had all the appearances of student digs," said Mr Steen.
"He saw no evidence that it was the couple's home, as claimed. His visit did nothing to reassure him that this was a genuine marriage.
"However, he did see the couple at that address but again saw nothing between them to confirm their asserted closeness.
"He determined them marriage was a sham and he reported it to the police."
Mr Steen said officers questioned Merselina, who admitted she had been recruited at a pop festival in Holland and agreed to travel to the UK and go through a marriage with Bello for a payment of £3,000.
She then travelled to Gloucester with her sister Loreen to 'add verisimilitude' to the sham marriage.
Mr Steen said Bello continued to claim it was a genuine relationship and told police he had first met Carina at Notting Hill Carnival.
"But he appeared to know little about her except that she was 'big, black and liked smoking and chicken burgers,'" Mr Steen said.
Bello, a 31 year old father of two, of Kelly Avenue, Peckham, London, Carina Merselina, 25, of no fixed address, and her sister Loreen, 35, also of no fixed address, all admitted conspiracy to secure the avoidance of Bello being deported from the UK.
Judge William Hart jailed Bello for 14 months, Carina for a year and Loreen for 300 days.
The court heard that another man who had also been involved in the scam, Aderojo Babatunde, had been sentenced at an earlier hearing to 300 days imprisonment after he admitted a similar offence.
Mr Steen told the court that Bello had lived in the UK since 2006 and a previous attempt by him to marry an EU national in 2008 had failed.
In February this year he went to Rev Simpson's church with Carina, who holds a Dutch passport, and they were with two other black Africans, Loreen and Babatunde, said Mr Steen.
They asked if they could marry on 19th Feb but that was too soon for Rev Simpson and he set 3rd March as the marriage date.
"He noticed then that there didn't appear to be anything of a real relationship between the woman and her fiance and they did not give out that they were properly enaged to each other," said Mr Steen.
They were arrested when they went to the diocesan registrar's office on Feb 24th to get the marriage licence.
Stephen Thomas, for Bello, said he was simply desperate to stay in this country with his partner so their two children could have a better life than he had in Nigeria.
He realised he had been foolish and he bitterly regretted his behaviour, Mr Thomas said.
Bello's two children, aged 6 and 7, are pupils at Peckham junior school and have been writing affection letters to their dad in jail, he added.
For Carina, David Billingham said she was a student in Holland and was tempted to take part simply because she needed the money.
Judge Hart told Bello and Carina that they had 'engaged in a cynical commercial arrangement to try to flout UK immigration law."
He said "This sort of offence is becoming somewhat prevalent - it strikes at the very heart of the UK system for regulating the population."
He went on "This was a particularly bad example of this type of offending in my judgement. It only failed due to the intervention and vigilance of others."