1. ITV Report

Sham marriage couple jailed after bride 'forgot' groom's name

'Bride' Vania Pinheiro-Fernandes Photo:

A bogus couple whose sham marriage was scuppered after the bride, from Manchester, could not remember the groom's name have been jailed.

Jayeola Abiola, 27, a Nigerian national who barely knew Portugese woman Vania Pinheiro-Fernandes, 29, planned to walk down the aisle to the ballad The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face - a choice a judge at Hull Crown Court described as "rather apt".

Abiola agreed to pay £5,000 for the sham marriage so he could get a visa to stay in the UK, the court heard.

Jayeola Abiola Credit: Border Agency

But the ceremony at Hull's Guildhall was halted because a registrar had become suspicious that Fernandes struggled to answer basic questions about her purported partner, and tipped off immigration officers.

David Bradshaw, prosecuting, said Abiola entered Britain legitimately as a student at Hull University but his visa expired in January 2013 - two months after the wedding.

He handed over large sums of cash to an organiser, who is due to be sentenced at a later hearing. The organiser roped in Fernandes and gave her his ex-wife's passport so she could register under a false name.

Mr Bradshaw told the court: "Because the defendant Abiola knew that his visa was to expire, he wished to continue staying in this country and he arranged to raise the sum of £5,000 and to use that money for an arrangement called a sham marriage.

"Had it happened in the normal way of things, he would have been able to stay in the UK."

The couple went to a registry office in Hull to book the ceremony for November 8 last year.

But alarm bells rang with staff when Fernandes presented the bogus passport and struggled to recall basic details about Abiola.

"The registrar was suspicious because he thought straight away that the lady was not the person in the photo on the passport," Mr Bradshaw said.

"She was also a little bit unsure about the surname of the proposed groom and their answers seemed to be rather rehearsed rather than freely given."

The concerns were reported to immigration enforcement officers, who investigated the case then waited for the couple at the ceremony.

"With a touch of irony, the music selected for the proposed wedding was The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," Mr Bradshaw told the court.

However, the service did not go ahead as the parties were arrested.

Investigations showed that more than £2,000 had been transferred from the groom's bank account, £2,000 of which was an advanced payment, the court heard.

Fernandes, of Corporation Road, Manchester, later admitted she expected to receive "a few hundred pounds" for her role but did not actually get anything.

CCTV from a BHS store when the defendants purchased a wedding dress.

In mitigation, the court was told that Abiola, of Grafton Street, Hull, was an intelligent man who had entered the country on a legal visa and had worked part-time. He has said he now wants to return to Nigeria as soon as possible.

Fernandes agreed to the one-off offence and did not stand to make any significant money, the court heard.

Neither had any prior convictions but pleaded guilty to conspiracy to breach immigration law and were detained in custody earlier in proceedings.

Judge Gurdial Singh said a custodial sentence for both defendants was "inevitable" as he jailed Abiola for 12 months and Fernandes for eight months.

He said: "It's often been said that sham marriages... strike at the heart of the immigration system."

Judge Singh told Abiola: "When you realised you were in danger of becoming an over-stayer, it was your idea to enter into a sham marriage.

"And you paid for it. This was a commercial enterprise and therein lies the seriousness."

Turning to Fernandes, he said: "You went along in the charade, pretending to be the lady shown in that passport."

Two other men, Abiola Kumoye and Ayodeji Abbis, who the court was told played organisational roles in the sham, will be sentenced at a later date.