A vicar has been accused of facilitating a “matrimonial conveyor belt” after performing hundreds of sham weddings so foreign nationals could stay in the UK, a court has heard.
Reverend Nathan Ntege, 55, is accused of marrying almost 500 bogus couples at St Jude’s with St Aidan Church in south-east London. The court was told Ntege’s aim was to provide an “industrial-scale abuse of the system of immigration control within the UK”.
Immigration officers were said to have become suspicious because of the “inordinate number of weddings that were taking place at the parish church” which rose from six a year to six a day, Edward Lucas, prosecuting told the court.
He said that many involved European Economic Area (EEA) nationals – mainly Bulgarian – marrying non-EEA nationals so the latter could try to remain in the UK.
Mr Lucas said: “Those involved in the weddings must have known that these were sham marriages and that the only purpose behind them was that so one of the parties to the wedding would be allowed to stay in the UK on the back of the marriage.”
He said people wishing to go through bogus marriages were introduced to the church because of its “no-questions-asked policy”.
Jurors were told how several brides at some ceremonies shared the same wedding dress and queued at the back waiting to get married.
Speaking about one bride, Mr Lucas told the jury: “It is possible to see the back of her bra in the photos where it is apparent that she couldn’t do the dress up… because it was too small for her.” The defendants deny all of the charges.