A gang who flew Lithuanian brides into the UK as part of an immigration scam have been sentenced at Croydon Crown Court.
Ringleaders Lina Kezelyte, 33, and Mohemmed Jemaldeen, 33, ‘match-made’ the brides with their grooms, who were men from south Asian and west African countries who had tried and failed to get visas to remain in the UK by other means.
By paying the gang to arrange for them to marry women from Lithuania, an EU nation, they could claim residency in the UK.
Altogether the gang saw 26 Lithuanian brides wed to grooms from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nigeria and Nepal, making an estimated £315,000.
Valentina Kezeliene, 53, the mother of Lina Kezelyte, laundered money and booked the flights. Three others helped move money and attended the fake weddings.
The scam ended in October 2013 when a wedding ceremony was interrupted by immigration officers, the bride and groom arrested and subsequently charged and convicted. One of the guests had a camera containing photos of six separate weddings but with brides and bridesmaids swapping roles.
CPS London reviewing lawyer Robert Hutchinson said: “This gang made large amounts of money conducting sham marriages as part of an immigration scam involving flying Lithuanian women to the UK.
“The prosecution case involved looking at suspicious bank transfers, hundreds of flight bookings made for Lithuanian women and forensic analysis of a seized laptop containing crib sheets of questions likely to be asked in immigration interviews.
“We showed that the claim made by Lina Kezelyte that this was a legitimate international dating agency did not stand up to scrutiny. This case shows that anyone who tries to circumvent UK immigration law in this way will face prosecution with a strong case put before the court.”
- Lina Kezelyte, 33, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration – four and a half years.
- Mohemmed Jemaldeen, 33, was tried and sentenced in his absence for conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration – four years.
- Valentina Kezeliene, 53, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration – two and a half years.
- Ruta Sperskaite, 25, conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration – two years suspended for two years plus 200 hours unpaid work.
- Renato Semasko, 53, convert criminal proceeds – 18 months suspended for 18 months plus 200 hours unpaid work.