Fake marriage syndicate in court over 164 visas
AN ALLEGED sham-marriage syndicate operating in Sydney has been busted after it allegedly tried to get visas for 164 foreigners by faking romantic relationships with vulnerable women.
The alleged head of the syndicate, Indian national Jagjit Singh, 32, has faced court charged with arranging four sham marriages, while the Australian Border Force say another 160 non-citizens had their partner visa applications refused on the grounds that they were non-genuine after being linked to his syndicate despite marriage certificates being supplied.
Australian Border Force Acting Investigations commander Clinton Sims said these types of scams generally exploited desperate young women by offering large sums of money if they agree to marry a foreigner who wants to enter Australia.
"Non-citizens seeking to live in Australia who had exhausted all other options to remain lawfully were paying a significant amount of money to enter into a fake marriage," he said.
"They are often being partnered with vulnerable young women, many of whom come from disadvantaged and low socio-economic backgrounds.
"They are being approached by a facilitator, typically via social media, and offered regular and substantial payments if they agree to be a sponsor for a partner visa application."
The syndicate Mr Singh allegedly ran targeted people who were not Australian citizens in the South Asian community, Mr Sims said.
After extensive investigation by Border Force, 164 partner visa applications linked to the syndicate were rejected on the basis the romantic relationships were fake.
"Many of the women involved in these scams have suffered a history of substance abuse, family violence and financial hardship, and are lured in with promises of substantial payments," Mr Sims said.
Mr Singh fronted the Downing Centre Local Court on Tuesday charged with arranging three sham marriages for the purpose of obtaining permanent residency between May 2013 and February 2015.
The charge of arranging a marriage that is not genuine to obtain permanent residency carries a fine of up to $210,000 or 10 years in prison.
Outside court Mr Singh said he was only "helping" and would be defending the charges against him.
"I don't know the guy who was arranging these things, I am just sometimes helping them," he said.
Four Sydney women, all aged in their 20s, also appeared before the same court charged with one count each of aiding, abetting or procuring the arrangement of a marriage to obtain residence for non-citizens.
One of the women, Nicole Flower, 25, of Airds, pleaded guilty to assisting in the arrangement of one sham marriage.
Two sisters from the NSW Central Coast, Brooke and Jordan-Lee Evans, did not enter pleas and refused to comment outside court about their alleged involvement in the syndicate.
Court documents allege each of the four women are charged with helping arrange the fake unions "to get a stay visa by satisfying a criterion for the visa because of marriage".
It is alleged the Evans sisters, aged 21 and 24, assisted in helping two foreigners get hitched for the purpose of obtaining a visa sometime in February 2015.
Police will also allege Suzanne Akkari, 24, of Casula, aided, abetted or procured a sham marriage between another two people sometime in May 2013.
Flower was the only one who has admitted to helping arrange a fake union in December 2013. She will next face court later this month.
All of the matters were heard before Magistrate Jennifer Atkinson and she adjourned all of the cases, except Flower's, until January.