|Lina Kezelyte & Valentina Kezeliene|
A gang of Lithuanian women - headed by a daughter and her mother - flew in brides to marry Indian and Pakistani men in a £315,000 sham marriage visa plot, a court heard.
A total of twenty-six bogus marriages have been identified in which young Lithuanian women were booked on flights with budget airline Wizz Air and flown to Luton Airport from Vilnius, the jury were told.
Sometimes the marriage ceremony at a London-area registry office would take place the following day, with the bride returning home alone shortly after.
The grooms were often illegal overstayers, who had exhausted every legal means to remain and should have returned to their home countries.
The five woman have all pleaded not guilty at to conspiring together between February 1, 2012 and August 28, 2014 to assist unlawful immigration by arranging the marriages and assisting the grooms.
They all also deny money laundering between the same dates, namely converting criminal property, the sham marriage fees.
They are: Lina Kezelyte, 32, and her mother Valentina Kezeliene, 53, of Warmwell Avenue, Colindale.
Beata Jarmolovic, 28, of Park Barn Drive, Guildford.
Renata Semasko, 29, of The Oaks, Aldershot Road, Guildford.
Ruta Sperskaite, 25, of Vanderville Gardens, East Finchley.
|Beata Jarmolovic & Ruta Sperskaite|
A sixth defendant, Mohemmed Jemaldeen, 33, of Turner Road, Edgware, who is accused of providing the grooms, faces the same two counts, but is absent from the trial.
Prosecutor Mr. Jonathan Polnay told Croydon Crown Court that as members of the EU spouses of Lithuanian nationals have the right to permanently live and work in the UK.
“This case is about the subversion of that right for profit, to the detriment of those that play by the rules, by arranging sham marriages to fool the authorities into allowing the grooms to remain in the UK.
“This conspiracy was to help non-EU national men to live and work in the UK via a sham marriage.
“They managed, in some cases, to fool the Home Office and other public bodies the marriages were genuine.”
Even when a visa application was rightly denied, the jury heard appeals to the Home Office were successful, with the grooms being allowed to stay as a legal spouse.
“These six defendants were involved in arranging these marriages, setting them up and running the show.
“Many of the grooms were desperate. They had already tried and failed to stay in the UK.”
The bogus brides were paid a fee and shown how to apply for a National Insurance number as soon as they arrived, which proved they were exercising their EU treaty rights.
The jury were told Lina Kezelyte was the “ringleader” who recruited most of the brides and her mother booked flights and helped launder the profits.
“The other defendants assisted in moving around the money and helped out at the weddings themselves,” explained Mr. Polnay.
Ceremonies took place in registry offices from Camberley, Surrey to Enfield, north London.
Investigators discovered that during the period of the conspiracy Lina received £315,376 into her five bank accounts, with £99,496 of it in cash.
She declared to HMRC she was earning an annual salary of £36,000.
“There is cash swilling around, a lot of it.”
The trial is expected to last seven weeks………….