NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Kizito Ugo Nwajeri guilty of Aberdeen sham wedding

Kizito Ugo Nwajeri
Image caption Nwajeri was said by police to be the head of an organised crime gang

A man has been found guilty of marrying an Aberdeen woman to help him stay in the UK.

Kizito Ugo Nwajeri, 31, a Nigerian national, denied paying Kirsty Birnie to be his wife so he could extend his student visa.

He claimed he had married her for love.

However Nwajeri, of Bolton, was found guilty under the Immigration Act at the High Court in Aberdeen after a trial which began on 25 September. Sentence was deferred.

Nwajeri gave Ms Birnie £2,000 to fly to Nigeria with him to get married in Lagos in 2010.

The 31-year-old denied cash was ever exchanged, but Ms Birnie, 30, claimed she was told to "name her price" and handed a bible stuffed with money during a meeting at an Aberdeen cafe.

It took a jury of eight women and seven men just under two hours to convict the Nigerian. He was also convicted of a further charge of dealing cocaine.

He had been arrested following a surveillance operation by Grampian Police.

Following Nwajeri's conviction, Det Ch Insp Alex Dowall said, Nwajeri was involved in the large scale distribution of crack cocaine.

"During Operation Rinnes, crack cocaine with a street value of over £250,000 was recovered across Scotland, which could be directly linked to Nwajeri.

"Nwajeri is a calculated individual motivated by personal greed who portrayed himself as a tutor of mathematics, however, enquiries established that he was the principal individual within an organised crime group.

"He used vulnerable individuals from Aberdeen to assist him in his drug dealing activities and also coerced a local woman into taking part in a marriage ceremony with him in Nigeria in an attempt to avoid immigration laws and remain within the United Kingdom."

Nwajeri's former girlfriend, Morven Hutcheson, 30, had previously told the High Court in Aberdeen how she had helped plan the illegal ceremony.

She admitted she had suggested her primary school friend Ms Birnie as a potential bride.

Nwajeri had originally asked Ms Hutcheson to marry him so he could stay in Britain.

But Ms Hutcheson said she was not in a position to accept a proposal because she was already married to a Nigerian man who had left her weeks before.

Events 'snowballed'

Ms Birnie, who works as a domestic at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, said the plan "snowballed" after she accepted the £2,000 payment.

She said she found herself on a flight to West Africa with the couple within weeks and spent her wedding night alone while her friend shared a room with her groom.

But Ms Birnie told the jury she became scared after watching a TV programme about people being jailed for sham marriages and tried to get a divorce.

Nwajeri denied opening a joint bank account with her after their wedding to help prove they were in a relationship and citing his marriage to apply for leave to remain in the UK.

He had also denied dealing cocaine at locations across Aberdeen between September 2010 and May last year, but was found guilty of the charge.

Lord Kinclaven deferred sentence until later this month at the High Court in Edinburgh, where the possibility of deportation will also be discussed.

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