In the Media

Rochdale vicar jailed for sham marriage scam

PUBLISHED January 26, 2012

A Rochdale vicar has been sentenced to?two and a half?years in prison for conducting over 20 sham marriages and for stealing more than ?8,000 of donations and fees for church services. The Crown Prosecution Service also applied for a confiscation order which was granted to the sum of ?6,000. Fran Gough, Senior Crown Prosecutor from CPS North West Area Complex Casework Unit said: ?John Magumba conducted these wedding ceremonies knowing full well that they were sham marriages, purely to assist non-EU citizens in their bid to gain UK residency. He was prepared to help them do this by completely disregarding those aspects of the law, and church regulations, which exist to ensure that marriages are properly conducted and entered into for the right reasons. His dishonesty in effectively plundering church funds is also difficult to believe in someone whom others looked to for moral guidance. ?Working closely with officers from the UK Border Agency we have been able to present a strong case against Magumba detailing his abuse of church rules and marriage law, which left him with little option but to plead guilty to the charges. ?This case sends out a clear message that the CPS and UKBA take these offences very seriously and anyone involved in arranging marriages of convenience like this can expect to be prosecuted robustly.? Magumba, team vicar of St Peter?s, St Mary?s and St Luke?s churches in Rochdale, pleaded guilty at Bolton Crown Court in December to conspiracy to facilitate a breach of UK immigration law by a non-EU person and two counts of theft by an employee. Between 2007 and 2010 Magumba regularly conducted marriages between Nigerian nationals and EU nationals solely to enable the Nigerian nationals to obtain marriage certificates to help them gain long-term residency in the UK and therefore knowingly assisted in their unlawful immigration. Investigations by UK Border Agency investigators revealed that in conducting the ceremonies he had flouted rules under the Marriage Act and had ignored church regulations and practices about weddings. He failed to conform to rules about marriage banns, failed to keep accurate records of the weddings and the marriage certificates, and conducted weddings in secret without the knowledge of the other clergy at the churches. Magumba also admitted theft of ?8,345 by keeping money that was paid to him for weddings and other services which he was not authorised to keep and should have paid over to the church.