Winchester 'sham marriage attempt' halted before wedding

The man and woman being escorted from the register office A 21-year-old French woman and a 26-year-old Cameroonian man were arrested moments before they were due to tie the knot

Four people have been arrested after a suspected sham marriage was halted in Hampshire.

Home Office immigration enforcement officers arrested a 21-year-old French woman and a 26-year-old Cameroonian man moments before they were due to tie the knot at Winchester Register Office.

Investigators attended the ceremony following a tip-off that it might not be genuine.

A 29-year-old man and a 30-year-old man have also been arrested.

The woman was held on suspicion of perjury, bigamy and assisting unlawful immigration.

It is suspected she had been married twice before, neither of which relationship had been dissolved.

The Cameroonian man, whose leave to remain in the UK expires shortly, was detained on suspicion of perjury.

Both were being questioned at a Hampshire police station, while searches took place at properties in Basingstoke and Lewisham, south London.

The 29-year-old man, from the Ivory Coast, and the 30-year-old man, who presented a Belgium identity card, were arrested at a property in High Street, Winchester.

They were held on suspicion of conspiracy to facilitate a breach of UK immigration law.

Officers also found a quantity of cash which has been seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act, a Home Office spokesman said.

The Home Office said the operation took place with the full co-operation of the superintendent registrar.

A spokesman said a sham marriage or civil partnership typically occurs when a non-European national marries someone from the European Economic Area as a means of attempting to gain long-term residency and the right to work and claim benefits in the UK.

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