Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Sham Marriages 'Couples' Handed Prison Sentences

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Sham Marriages 'Couples' Handed Prison Sentences

Article excerpt

Byline: Gareth Lightfoot Court Reporter gareth.lightfoot@trinitymirror.com

SHAM marriages have earned two Algerian men and two Czech women prison sentences totalling five years.

Katerina Gaborova, 28, got married to Fateh El Fiad, 38, in Middlesbrough, while Zdenka Sudikova, 22, wed Mahrez Benbetka, 28, for the men to gain the rights of EU citizens.

The two men were sentenced to 18 months each - but they were not at Teesside Crown Court to hear the outcome as they absconded halfway through their trial and are still on the run.

If caught, the fugitives will face automatic deportation. The women were jailed for one year each.

Sentencing, Recorder Henry Prosser said: "I am satisfied that this was a commercial enterprise.

"There was no love or affection between the parties to the marriage.

"They were strangers to each other at the time of the marriage and I'm satisfied that the marriages were entered into for the purposes of financial gain, both to enable the men to obtain work in this country and to remain here indefinitely.

"I am satisfied that there was a significant degree of organisation that went into the commission of these offences."

He told Teesside Crown Court the four were in contact with a network allowing non-EU citizens to pay for sham marriages with EU citizens.

Jailing the women, Recorder Prosser said: "I am satisfied that each of them would have expected to be paid for taking part in this marriage."

Prosecutor David Brooke told how the Middlesbrough Register Office registrar had no legal right to stop the nuptials, but reported concerns over both marriages.

No communication, interaction or affection was seen among the couples and it was suspected they had been "coached".

Each of the women said they had met their partners in a coffee shop months earlier.

Gaborova paid for bakery worker Sudikova to fly to this country from Prague in May 2013 for the fake marriage.

Sudikova married Benbetka, an overstayer on a six-month visa, on September 24, 2013. She told investigators he proposed unexpectedly, she knew he was an illegal immigrant and she was happy about the marriage. …

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