Lithuanian woman 'given £2,000 moments before sham marriage'

A Lithuanian woman had her wedding dress bought for her the day before she married an African man she barely knew as part of an alleged sham marriage racket, a court heard today.





Elvyra Ziogeviciene said she was handed £2,000 in cash in a car outside the church by her husband-to-be, Peter Ojo, moments before she married him.



Only a handful of people she hardly knew were present and afterwards she returned to her home with a friend rather than with her new husband, she told Lewes Crown Court.



Jurors heard how shortly after the wedding Mr Ojo turned up at her home with an associate to collect her dress which they bought 24 hours earlier, "probably to take it back" to Debenhams.



She said she had accompanied Mr Ojo and his associate to the store in Hastings, East Sussex, but walked behind them as she felt "ashamed" at what she was taking part in.



Ms Ziogeviciene said the men chose the wedding dress for her, adding that she "wasn't bothered" that she had not had a say in what she would wear.



Asked whether there was any celebration afterwards to mark her nuptials on July 15, 2006, she replied through an interpreter: "You're joking. There was no celebration."



She said she bought a car with the £2,000 but denied claims she deliberately ensnared Mr Ojo after saying she wanted to marry "a rich African man".



The court heard she was introduced to him by a third party, a man named Kaido Maesalu, who brought up the idea that she might wed for cash after she arrived in the UK some 18 months earlier.



About three weeks after the suggestion was put to her, divorcee Ms Ziogeviciene agreed to the idea and Mr Ojo was brought to her room in King's Road, St Leonards-on-sea.



Speaking from behind a screen, she told jurors that she agreed to the plan after Kaido explained to her that she would be helping someone gain work legally and benefit herself.



It is alleged that the wedding was one of hundreds of sham marriages conducted at the Church of St Peter and St Paul in St Leonards over a four-year period as part of a "massive and cynical scam" to help illegal immigrants gain residency in the UK.



The Reverend Alex Brown, 61, and co-defendants Michael Adelasoye, 50, and Vladymyr Buchak, 33, who is said to be Kaido's alias, are accused of preying on eastern Europeans desperate for cash and Africans willing to do anything to stay in the UK.



Between July 2005 and July 2009, Brown presided over a total of 383 marriages at the church, a 30-fold increase compared to the 13 he had conducted over the previous four years.



Brown, of Blomfield Road, Ukrainian national Buchak, of Anglesea Terrace, and solicitor and immigration specialist Adelasoye, of St Matthew's Drive, all in St Leonards, deny conspiring to facilitate the commission of breaches in immigration laws.









Ms Ziogeviciene said that some time after the wedding Kaido called her asking for her payslips and other documents, which she handed over.



She told the court that she had not seen Mr Ojo for "quite a while" and asked whether she ever lived or intended to live with him as man and wife, she replied: "No."



Ms Ziogeviciene said: "I thought I would help him as Kaido explained that I will benefit and I will help someone else and he would get a legal job."



She went on: "I didn't offer to marry. I got the money and I know it was wrong."



The case continues.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence