A solicitor has been jailed for ten years for running an immigration sham marriage scam estimated to be worth £20 million.
Tevfick Souleiman was told he had let down his profession and destroyed the trust placed in lawyers.
Judge John Bevan said members of Souleiman GA solicitors had run a “conveyor belt” of brides being flown in from eastern European countries.
They would marry men they had never met from non-EU countries and be flown out the next day after being paid by the north London firm.
Souleiman, 39, from Hatfield, Hertfordshire, was found guilty last week of conspiracy to breach immigration law and receiving the proceeds of crime.
Immigration advisers Cenk Guclu, 41, of Enfield, and Furrah Kosimov, 29, from Wembley, both north London – who disappeared while on bail – were jailed for nine years for their parts in the scam. Another of the firm’s immigration advisers, Zafer Altinbas, 38, of Islington, north London, pleaded guilty and was jailed for six years and nine months.
Judge Bevan it would be hard to find a similar scam on the same scale and sophistication. The men had taken advantage of the pressure the UK Border Agency was under and the complexity of EU law to create frauds “that would be obvious to a child”.
Sham marriages were created “on an industrial scale”, and Judge Bevan added: “A heavy responsibility for upholding the law rests with the lawyers. If the public cannot trust them, who can they trust. You have destroyed that trust by driving a coach and horses through these rules.”
An estimated 1,800 men, including members of the Albanian mafia, were able to live in Britain by taking part in sham marriages over eight years. Men would pay up to £14,000 to Souleiman GA Solicitors for a marriage package. This would include fake tenancy agreements, employer’s references and forged documents. Only £2m of unexplained income had been found in bank accounts. The rest is thought to have been smuggled out of the country.
The racket was uncovered after British police cracked an Albanian drugs and money laundering gang in London. The brothers at the head had undergone marriages arranged by the firm.