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Fake marriages scam triggers India wide warnings (updated)

Fake Marriages Scam pic

164 Visa applications refused, Indian mastermind nabbed

New Delhi, November 22: The Australian High Commission in New Delhi is warning Indian nationals (mostly men) wanting to migrate to Australia as spouses to be aware of organised contrived marriage scams targeting South Asians.

This warning comes after Australian Border Force (ABF) shut down an elaborate contrived marriages syndicate operating out of Sydney, with a Sydney based 32-year-old Indian national, Jagjit Singh facing court over his alleged role as the main facilitator in early November. The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) has charged Jagjit Singh with four counts of arranging a marriage to obtain permanent residence, contrary to Section 240 of the Migration Act 1958.

According to the prosecution, between May 2013 and February 2015, jagjit Singh allegedly arranged these fake marriages with a purpose to obtain residency in Australia.

If proven guilty, Jagjit Singh faces a maximum penalty of up to $210,000 and/or 10 years imprisonment.

Four more Australian citizens are facing charges for allegedly participating, mainly convincing individuals to fraudulently marry non-citizens seeking to obtain permanent residency for money. They were charged under the Migration Act and Criminal code.

The matter has comes back before courts on 8th January 2019.

Meanwhile the authorities are doing their best to spread awareness of the danger people participating in such illegal activities face.

As a result of the covert operation run by the ABF, 164 foreign nationals have had their applications for a Partner visa refused after they were found to have links to the syndicate. None of the participants in this scam obtained permanent residency, despite some of them having paid significant amounts of money.

In many cases, they lost huge amounts of money for no immigration outcome.

While contrived marriages are not unique to any one nationality, this particular syndicate was attempting to illegally facilitate fake marriages with non-citizens in the South Asian community.

These types of scams generally target vulnerable young Australian women, many of whom come from disadvantaged and low socio-economic backgrounds. The non-citizens, attempting to enter or stay in Australia, generally pay a significant sum of money to the facilitator.

ABF Acting Investigations Commander, Clinton Sims, said the syndicates undermine the integrity of Australia’s visa program and exploit desperate individuals.

“Many of the women involved in these scams have suffered a history of substance abuse, family violence and financial hardship, and are lured in with promises of substantial payments,” Commander Sims said.

“Those seeking a visa through a contrived marriage also need to understand that paying a facilitator will not buy them a permanent visa pathway in Australia. There is rarely any financial recourse in the event that their Partner visa application is unsuccessful.”

“Protecting the integrity of the visa system is an operational priority for the ABF and anyone found to be involved in, or facilitating sham marriages should expect to be investigated and face criminal prosecution. Registered agents and marriage celebrants also face losing their registration.”

The ABF has also been successful in combating contrived marriages in Victoria, with one individual sentenced to six months imprisonment for fraud offences against the Migration Act.

The Department of Home Affairs has a range of measures in place to ensure the integrity of the Partner visa program. These measures include:

  1. assessing detailed documentary evidence;
  2. conducting interviews and home visits; and
  3. limitations on the number of times a person can sponsor a partner to Australia.

Members of the public who have information about possible visa fraud are encouraged to report it to ABF’s BorderWatch program by visiting Australia.gov.au/borderwatch.

Information can be given anonymously.

Vir Rajendra in Sydney

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