Warrant issued for bride's arrest

Published Friday, 16 May 2014
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A Portuguese national, who agreed to act as a 'groom' in a sham marriage to be held at Belfast City Hall, has narrowly avoided being sent to jail.

Warrant issued for bride's arrest
The pair were due to marry at Belfast City Hall. (© UTV)

However, a warrant has been issued for the arrest of the 'bride' after she failed to appear in court on Friday.

Armindo Claudio Camilo, 34 and a pylon painter from Waterfall Road in Carnlough, was handed a one-year jail term suspended for three years, after he admitted a charge of assisting unlawful immigration.

Belfast Crown Court heard on Friday that the father-of-three agreed to act as a 'groom' and marry Nigerian woman Joy Uwadibie, who was not an EU citizen, for financial gain.

The bogus wedding was organised by Ms Uwadibie's actual partner and was due to take place in Belfast on 7 September last year - but was stopped by immigration authorities.

Ms Uwadibie, 29, was due to appear alongside Camilo in court on Friday where she faced a charge of seeking to obtain leave in the UK by deception.

However, an immigration officer told the court that after calling at her address in Belfast earlier this week, the property was empty and a 'To Let' sign was in the window.

He said that it was his understanding that she was now across the border in the Republic, prompting Judge Corinne Philpott QC to issue a warrant for her arrest.

Crown prosecutor Amanda Brady said the sham marriage was due to take place at noon on 7 September. But immigration authorities were "suspicious" about its nature and representatives from the Home Office "stepped in" before it started as they wanted to ask the bride and groom some questions to confirm where or not the relationship was genuine.

Ms Brady said the bride and groom - Uwadibie and Camilo - were taken aside and after several questions were asked, the authorities "were not convinced it was a genuine marriage."

When he was interviewed, Camilo immediately made a full admission, and said he had agreed to take part as he was facing financial difficulties at the time.

The court heard he expected to receive around £3,500, some of which he had already received with the rest due "in stages."

He told the authorities that he was a Portuguese national and had come to Ireland looking for work.

When asked about the sham marriage, Camilo said his motivation was financial but said: 'I regret that decision entirely and should not have become involved."

Pointing out that Camilo pleaded guilty at the first opportunity, Ms Brady said the immigration officer dealing with the case has been impressed with Camilo's attitude, branding him polite and helpful.

Defence barrister Ian Turkington said his client came to Ireland aged 19 in 1999, and since then had worked in a number of jobs in both the north and south, including his current employment as a pylon painter.

Pointing out Camilo has no criminal record, the barrister said the financial motivation for taking part in the sham marriage was to support his three children, two of whom live with a former partner in the Republic.

Mr Turkington also spoke of Camilo's "remorse and insight", and asked Judge Philpott not to jail him - but rather "give him a chance to prove that he will never be before this court again."

The judge warned others against "taking this option when they are stuggling financially," warning there would be consequences for those who take part in this kind of offending.

Ordering Camilo to serve a 12-month prison sentence, Judge Philpott told him she was suspending the sentence for three years for a number of reasons including his work ethic, lack of criminal record, "unblemished character" and his immediate admission of guilt.

She added: "You have also told the truth about the money you were told you would receive. In my view it was a substantial amount of money for someone who was having financial difficulties. That may be a reason why you involved yourself, but it is no excuse."

© UTV News
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