A GANG has been jailed for trafficking Hungarian women to take part in sham marriages in Bury under the threat of violence and fear.
The leader, 26-year-old Shahbaz Khan, of Argyle Street, Bury, was sentenced to six years and three months in prison at Bolton Crown Court on Monday, for trafficking three women into the country.
The financial brains of the operation, 32-year-old Amjad Khan, of Canning Street, Bury, was handed a four-and-a-half-year sentence, while 48-year-old Sandor Orsos, who transported the women to England and told one woman that he would “kill her or her family if she did not comply”, was jailed for three years.
Their sentencing followed a three-week trial, when a jury found Amjad Khan guilty of conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.
Orsos, of Crawshaw Street, Dewsbury, Yorkshire, and Shahbaz Khan pleaded guilty before the start of the trial.
All three men will be subject to automatic deportation orders at the end of their sentences.
The money-making scam saw three Hungarian women, Vanessa Sarkozi, Maria Bodgan and Zsuzsanna Simon, trafficked into the UK through Dover, in order to marry Pakistani men to allow them to receive residency within the UK.
The court heard that Orsos would then transport the women to an address in Huddersfield, where he would receive a “substantial” payment.
It is believed that the Pakistani men paid between £8,000 and £10,000 to take part in the sham marriage.
In order to participate in the fake ceremonies held at Bury Register Office between February and July last year, the women were promised “a few hundred pounds”, but the court heard that the gang used violence to control them.
When Maria Bogdan, who was aged 24 when she arrived in the UK, was due to take part in a sham marriage on July 10, the court heard that Shahbaz Khan stabbed her in the breast with a knife.
Addressing Khan, Judge Timothy Clayson said: “On the day of the sham marriage she was deeply distressed about her situation, and you decided to teach her a lesson, in order to make sure she did not go to the police, in order that she complied with your plan.”
Khan had claimed that he had not made any money from the scheme, but Judge Clayson described this assertion as “ludicrous.”
He added: “You undertook a leadership role in a serious, planned commercial criminal enterprise, which exploited women as a result of their economic and social vulnerability.”
Members of the gang were caught and arrested in August and October following an investigation by the Home Office.
Speaking after the sentencing, Nick Wood, from the Home Office’s North West Criminal and Financial Investigations Team, said the women, who gave evidence during the trial, had returned to Hungary.
Mr Wood said: “They were quite distressed. They had been kept against their will and they had been coerced and tricked into coming to the UK.
“None of the promises that were sold to them ever came to fruition, none of them received any money for what they did, and they were quite frankly delighted to be freed by us when we went to the door.”
Mr Wood said that the marriages meant that the Pakistani men would be able to access “all kinds of benefits” in the UK, and that the women were an “easy target” because of their “impoverished” backgrounds.
He added: “These were helpless women. They weren’t providing any threat to the gang at all, and this was all part of the coercion and fear that the gang was using to keep them in line.
“We are delighted with the sentences, this sends out a really strong message that the Home Office will not countenance abuse of the immigration laws in the UK.”
Investigations are continuing after two men who had taken part in the sham marriages have jumped bail, and are wanted by police.
Men were charged up to £10,000
Shahbaz Zhan, Amjad Khan and Sandor Orsos charged up to £10,000 as marriage organisers.
Home Office chiefs say the gang became known as the go-to people for anyone who wanted a fake marriage set up.
Shahbaz Khan would inform Orsos that he needed a certain number of women to take part in a sham marriage to a Pakistani man.Orsos then travelled to Hungary and brought women back to England.
The bride and groom would often complete the charade by dressing in full wedding regalia.
Following the wedding, the groom would gain residency in the UK, the bride, a few hundred pounds.