Vicar jailed after dozens of sham marriages


A Church of England vicar was jailed for two and a half years today after carrying out dozens of sham marriages allowing illegal immigrants to live in the UK.

The Rev Canon Dr John Magumba was taking so many weddings involving foreign nationals his diocese put him in charge of a special working party on how to handle marriages for foreigners - and how to spot sham weddings.

In fact father-of-six Magumba, originally from Uganda, "asked no questions" when marrying a stream of Nigerian men and eastern European women who began flocking to his parish in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, from across the UK to celebrate their "happy day".

The 58-year-old even told local church-goers that African worshippers did not feel comfortable around so many white parishioners so he set up separate "African services".

Churches saw the number of weddings rocket after Magumba became the team vicar for St Mary's in Rochdale, St Peter's in Newbold and St Luke's in Deeplish.

Today Magumba showed no emotion as sentence was passed at Bolton Crown Court after he admitted carrying out 28 sham weddings.

Passing sentence Judge William Morris told the defendant: "What you did repeatedly amounted to very serious breaches of the immigration laws of this country properly designed to prevent those with no entitlement to reside in the UK from doing so.

"Such legal restrictions are essential for the proper functioning of the state to ensure that taxpayers' money is only allocated to the needs of fellow citizens.

"Whatever your motive for facilitating the fraudulent entry into this country of these individuals, neither you or anyone else in your place, can place your conscience above the laws of this country.

"Your offences have brought scandal to the church and let down your family and parishioners."

Police are not sure Magumba even conducted any actual services - but instead simply filled in the marriage certificates, described as the "Golden Ticket" to illegal immigrants.

Magumba later admitted to police Nigerians "would do anything in their power to come to the UK" and were "crying out" for marriage certificates, the court heard.

Non-EU citizens who marry EU citizens cannot be deported.

Nigerian men who married Polish, Slovak or Czech women - citizens of the EU - would then have the right to live, work and claim benefits in the UK.

Investigators uncovered at least 28 bogus weddings carried out by Magumba; 20 at St Peter's and eight at St Luke's, between April 2007 and February last year, before the scam was uncovered by the Border Agency.

He pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to one count of conspiracy to facilitate a breach of UK immigration law by a non-EU person.

He also admitted two counts of theft from his church councils by not declaring income from weddings and funerals.

He stole £5,437 from St Peter's Church and a further £2,908 from St Luke's.

Magumba is believed to be only the second clergyman in the UK to be jailed for such offences.

Magumba arrived in the UK in 2004 on an ecclesiastical visa, bringing his family with him from Uganda.

But from the start money was "always an issue" with him, investigators said.

He asked the church for crisis loans and took money from parishioners, cash he claimed he needed to clothe his children.

The normal £250 fee for a wedding in a CofE church was never passed on by him to the church funds, Joanna Rodikis, prosecuting, told the court.

The one genuine wedding he did perform he overcharged the couple by taking £600.

Apart from the £250 fee he kept from the church for the sham weddings, it is not clear if, or how much, Magumba "charged" for agreeing to issue a marriage certificate for bogus weddings.

UK Border Agency sources say foreign nationals who want to get a marriage certificate have paid around £7,000, the "going rate" to a fixer who organises the scam.

The EU national taking part would normally be paid between £1,000 and £4,000.

Police working with the Border Agency first came across Magumba while working on a separate sham wedding investigation in Lancashire.

They initially thought Magumba was an honest vicar until they began to check the church marriage records and discovered he was supplementing his £18,000 per year income by doing scam weddings.

Magumba was marrying so many foreign nationals the Diocese of Manchester set up a special working party, with him heading a committee on how to handle them and how to spot sham marriages.

Parish records showed from 1996 to 2007, there were no marriages recorded at St Peter's. But from April 2008 to February 2011 there were 20.

When investigators checked the addresses given of couples in the wedding registers they did not exist.

When the same name for one bride appeared twice in the register, spotted by the church warden, Magumba claimed the women were twins and it was common practice in Africa for twins to be given the same name.

He married one "groom" and another "bride" twice in the space of weeks and another "groom" was issued with three separate marriage certificates.

There were also blank "stubs" in the marriage register book, with missing certificates that cannot be traced.

Police checked the church diary and it showed on October 3, 2009, Magumba allegedly carried out two weddings, one at 10.30am and one at 12.30pm.

The same day in the church diary there was a coffee morning being held in aid of cancer research from 11am to 1pm. Police spoke to those who attended and were told they did not see any wedding.

Magumba insisted he did conduct the ceremonies and often did so "out of hours".

The prosecution gave the court an economic impact assessment of the health, education and other benefits used by illegal immigrants in the UK, citing a cost of £10,000 for a single person per year to £23,000 for a person with one dependant, described as "colossal figures" when added up over successive years.

Hunter Gray, mitigating, said Magumba initially agreed to the first sham wedding out of "misgiuded conscience" because the woman involved was suffering from Aids and was desperate for the NHS treatment she would not receive in her home country.

"He knows people are desperate to get into this country because perhaps he knows the uncertainty of life they might have back home," Mr Gray said.

"He has spectacularly fallen from grace. One day in prison is going to be too much for him.

"He has devoted the vast majority of his life to carry out valuable, selfless work for others in the community.

"He will be remembered for his bad deeds rather than years of his good deeds."

Magumba was suspended by the Church of England when he was arrested last March.


Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents The ad shows Prince Charles attired for his coronation in a crown and fur mantle with his mouth covered by a criss-cross of white duct tape
People White House officials refuse to make comment on 275,000 signatures that want Justin Bieber's US visa revoked
Mourinho lost his temper as well as the match
sportLiverpool handed title boost as Sunderland smash manager’s 77-game home league run
Sweet tweet: Victoria Beckham’s selfie, taken on her 40th birthday on Thursday
voices... and her career-long attack on the absurd criteria by which we define our 'betters', by Ellen E Jones
Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (front) drives ahead of Red Bull Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia during the Chinese F1 Grand Prix at the Shanghai International circuit
sport Hamilton captured his third straight Formula One race with ease on Sunday, leading from start to finish to win the Chinese Grand Prix

Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Clock off: France has had a 35‑hour working week since 1999
voicesThere's no truth to a law banning work emails after 6pm, but that didn’t stop media hysteria
Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
Life & Style
Lana Del Rey, Alexa Chung and Cara Delevingne each carry their signature bag
fashionMulberry's decision to go for the super-rich backfired dramatically
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit