Ten jailed for Nottingham churches' sham marriage conspiracy
TEN people have been jailed for a total of almost 18 years for trying to organise an international sham marriage conspiracy centred on three Nottingham churches.
The full details were revealed yesterday after 29-year-old Nottingham woman Olajumoke Ikoyi was sentenced to two years in prison for her part in the scam.
Ikoyi, 29, wed Ira Laken at St Paul's Church, Carlton, on February 27, 2010.
Leicester Crown Court heard yesterday the marriage was a sham, with the couple having met for the first time in December 2009. Laken flew back to Holland the day after the wedding.
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But mother-of-two Ikoyi, of North Gate, Basford, denied conspiracy to breach immigration law, saying she had believed the marriage to be real and only realised in the days afterwards that it was fake.
"I didn't know it was a sham," she told the court.
David Herbert, prosecuting, previously said the couple married in order for Ikoyi to gain UK residency and that the wedding had been arranged by her former partner, Phillips Onikoyi.
The prosecution said the wedding was one of a number arranged by Onikoyi between Nigerian and Dutch nationals.
Nine other people had already admitted conspiracy to breach immigration law, but their details could not be reported until the end of Ikoyi's trail.
Sentencing Ikoyi, Judge Robert Brown said: "I am quite satisfied that this defendant knew from the outset that this was a sham.
"Unlike the other Nigerians who pleaded guilty and were sentenced before, you as partner to Phillips Onikoyi have been closer to his activities and slightly more involved than they."
The scam came to light after UK Border Agency officers stopped a suspected sham marriage between Dutchman Ramsley De Kaster and a Nigerian woman, Folfolashade Ladapo, at St Stephen's with St Paul's Church, Bobbersmill Road, Hyson Green, on October 10, 2010. The bogus bride and groom pleaded guilty to conspiracy to breach immigration law.
A UK Border Agency team started an investigation which uncovered 16 sham marriages at St Aiden's Church, Basford, involving Dutch and Nigerian nationals.
On March 2, 2011, officers swooped on addresses in Nottingham, London and Kent. Dutch police officers also raided addresses in Rotterdam and Tilburg.
Suspected ringleader Onikoyi, a 34-year-old Nigerian, of Stanley Road, Forest Fields, was arrested along with suspected bogus brides and fellow Nigerians Esther Abiola Idowu, 31, of Gregory Boulevard, Nottingham, and Olujamoki Ikoyi, 29.
Isaac Onikoyi, a 22-year-old Nigerian man, was arrested in Ramsgate on March 2, 2011, while another Nigerian, Olushola Oshingbade, 40, was arrested in Lewisham a few weeks later.
Wensley Quirindongo, a 37-year-old Dutchman, was arrested on the same day in the Netherlands. Four other Dutch people – Ediselle Barrimond, 26, Ulrich Toppenberg, 41, Charlton Macaay, 29, and Shamazaira Castillo, 26 – were arrested in a follow-up operation in the Netherlands on March 16, 2011.
The Dutch people were extradited to the UK to stand trial with the other five suspects.
On September 19, 2011 all of those charged pleaded guilty except Ikoyi.
Onikoyi was sentenced to five years; Esther Idowu, Isaac Onikoyi and Olushola Oshingbade received 12 months each. The five Dutch people were each sentenced to 18 months.
Pete Copple, of the UK Border Agency's immigration crime team, said: "We are pleased this major international investigation has resulted in significant sentences being handed down to all members of this organised crime group who attempted to breach immigration law.
"We will continue to crack down on criminal gangs that try to profit from organising sham marriages."