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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 February 2007, 21:48 GMT
Sham wedding parson spared jail
A 60-year-old parson who conducted numerous sham marriages as part of an immigration scam has been spared jail.

Adeolu Magbagbeola of Stoneleigh, Enfield, north London, conducted at least 15 bogus weddings during the three-year con, the court heard.

These weddings enabled mostly Indian nationals to remain in the UK.

Magbagbeola, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud, was given a two-year suspended jail sentence owing to his ill health, the judge said.

The judge, at the Snaresbrook Crown Court also ordered him to pay for the cost of the trial from his profits from the con.

The scam, which occurred between 2001 and 2004, was uncovered by a newspaper reporter who posed as a cousin of the 'groom' and attended one such wedding.

'Lack of remorse'

The court heard that Magbagbeola, who for 35 years ran the Celestial Church of Christ, in Angel, north London, charged 1,000 for each wedding and often used the same women to repeatedly pose as brides for clients.

After the ceremony the pastor would take pictures with the couple and even provide false documents as proof for the Home Office.

Anuja Dhir, for prosecution, said: "He played a vital role in this long-running and criminal conspiracy which was designed to evade the UK's immigration controls".

She added that a search of the church revealed 20 passports which the priest said were with him for "safekeeping".

The judge said that due to "exceptional circumstances" and despite a "staggering lack of remorse" Magbagbeola was being given a suspended jail term.

Magbagbeola, who needs dialysis three times a day, was ordered to pay 20,000 towards the prosecution costs.

The court heard he collaborated with Paul Singh, 42, who is currently serving five years for an immigration scam.

Singh arranged 'marriages' for 80 couples and is awaiting deportation for the fourth time.

A further confiscation hearing will be held in June.




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