Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Winchester Register Office sham wedding trio guilty

Devine Abanda, Olivier Attie and Pacombe Djedje
Image caption Devine Abanda, Olivier Attie and Pacombe Djedje (l to r) were found guilty of conspiracy to facilitate the commission of a breach of UK immigration law

Three men have been convicted of planning a sham marriage to allow one of them to stay in the UK.

Devine Abanda, 27, from Cameroon, was arrested at Winchester's Register Office in February 2014 as he prepared to marry Olivia Godefroy.

Ivorian Pacombe Djedje, 30, and Belgian Olivier Attee, 31, were also convicted of immigration law breaches after a trial at Winchester Crown Court.

The bride had previously admitted conspiring to marry Abanda for money.

French national Godefroy was due to be paid £2,000 to marry the groom, jurors were told.

Image copyright Border Force
Image caption The bride and groom were arrested at Winchester Register Office before the ceremony was completed

She also admitted bigamy, having been already been married to two men.

Abanda, of Hillards Road, Uxbridge, west London, had tried to marry as his visa was due to expire, the court heard.

A number of documents were found in baggage belonging to the wedding party, including a "crib sheet" giving the bride essential details about her prospective husband, including his full name, address, job and the names of his parents.

The ceremony was interrupted by immigration officers before it could be completed.

Image caption The wedding ceremony at Winchester's old register office was interrupted by immigration officials

Home Office assistant director of immigration enforcement, Martin Huxley, said officials believed they had disrupted a "criminal network" conducting bogus weddings.

He said the ceremony had been referred to authorities by the local register office, and officers had observed the wedding party arriving before they intervened.

Abanda, Djedje, and Attie had each denied one count of conspiracy to facilitate the commission of a breach of UK immigration law by a non-EU person.

They will be sentenced at a later date.

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