Dutch police have busted a wedding scam involving Dutch citizens being paid to go to Britain to marry illegal Nigerian immigrants so they can obtain residency there, prosecutors said on Friday.
The gendarmerie, responsible for border security, “detained 16 women and seven men this week on the suspicion that they travelled to Britain to enter into fake marriages,” it said in a statement.
“They are almost all of Dutch Antillean origin and were flown to Britain to get married”, mainly to Nigerian men and women, it added.
Once married, the Nigerians would get legal residency in Britain and access to state welfare. In return, the Dutch collaborators would be paid 2 500 euros ($3 100) to 3 500 euros.
Members of the Dutch Caribbean community were used so they could be used as look-alikes for Nigerians' real partners, who would be brought into Britain after the “wedding” to make the swap complete, prosecution service spokesman Wim de Bruin told AFP.
Called Operation Dutch Conclusion, the two-year investigation involved Dutch and British law and border security agencies and continental policing agency Europol.
Dutch popular daily De Telegraaf reported on Friday that British law enforcement officers had made arrests at fake “weddings” with bride and groom on the verge of exchanging vows.
“We have seen wedding dresses with the price tag still on them being used by three 'brides' in one day, swapping the dress just outside the church,” the paper quoted an officer only identified as Michel.
Some 81 people have been arrested over the last two years, De Bruin said, mainly in Britain, of whom 66 have already been sentenced to between a few months and six years on human trafficking charges.
Those arrested in the Netherlands also face human trafficking charges, the statement added.