Page last updated at 12:23 GMT, Wednesday, 1 July 2009 13:23 UK

Vicar in 'sham marriages' arrest

A serving vicar has been arrested in an inquiry into nearly 180 "sham marriages" at an East Sussex church.

Police joined a team from the UK Border Agency to arrest four people, including the Reverend Alex Brown, 61, from St Peter and St. Paul Church, St Leonards.

Det Insp Andy Cummins said Tuesday's arrests followed an 18-month probe into allegations that nearly 180 sham marriages had been arranged.

A Chichester diocese spokesman said the vicar had been suspended from duty.

DI Cummins said the bogus marriages "allowed non-EU nationals to remain within the UK and EU member states".

More than 35 officers carried out dawn raids at six addresses in St Leonards and Hastings.

Translation services

Mr Brown, 61, was arrested on suspicion of conspiring to facilitate the illegal entry of people to the UK.

A 32-year-old Ukrainian man and a 27-year-old Latvian woman, believed to have been one of the brides, were both arrested on suspicion of facilitation offences at an address in Anglesea Terrace, Hastings.

A 36-year-old Armenian man was arrested at a property in Linton Road, Hastings, for the same alleged offence.

A commercial premises which offers advice and translation services to the Eastern European community was also searched as part of the operation.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Chichester said Mr Brown had been suspended from his duties pending the outcome of the investigation.

He said: "It is with great sadness and regret that the Bishop of Lewes has received a report of the arrest of the Rev Alex Brown, the Vicar of St Peter's, Bohemia, St Leonards-on-Sea.

"The church has been co-operating fully with the police and other agencies in their ongoing investigations since the extent and seriousness of this matter came to light."

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