11 arrests - Stun gun, false IDs seized in Garda sting
By Chinedu Onyejelem
Thousands of immigrants who gained residency in Ireland on the basis of marriage to EEA nationals are facing investigation to determine the validity of their union.
Already gardaí are probing about 700 suspected cases of so-called ‘sham’ marriages in the first phase of their analysis, which Detective Chief Superintendent Dave Darling said would be a lengthy process.
The investigations come in the wake of Operation Vantage, launched by the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) on 10 August this year.
Searches were conducted in 84 homes and business premises on 24 November and identified several suspected marriages of convenience as defined under the Civil Registration (Amendment) Act 2014.
Gardaí made 11 arrests and seized a significant number of “computers, memory devices, phones and documents including false identity documents, driving licences and marriage certificates.”
A stun gun and quantities of cash amounting to €30,000 were also seizes, according to Garda sources.
The operation noted the involvement of criminal networks located in both Ireland and the UK.
“These criminal elements are gleaning huge profits by organising residency status for non-EU nationals through these marriages of convenience,” said a Garda statement, which added that criminals facilitating sham marriages are “believed to be charging non-EU nationals up to €20,000” to recruit spouses and arrange transport, false documents, and other services.
The Garda operation says it identified €27m going through an account belonging to one of the criminals.
“This operation is not a once-off intervention,” said Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald. “It forms part of an overall response being led by my department including preventing marriages of convenience from taking place and taking a fresh look at past cases with a view to revoking immigration permissions that may have been obtained under false pretences.”
Metro Éireann understands that Justice’s investigation would review some of the several thousand marriages conducted over recent years.
It’s a move already indicated by the previous Minister Alan Shatter, who stated at the Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting in Luxembourg on 9 June 2011 that suspected sham marriages had led to abuses of freedom-of-movement rights in the EU.
Shatter cited “almost 400 applications or residence” lodged by non-EEA nationals – “from Pakistan and, to a lesser degree, Ukraine and India” – on the foot of marriage to Latvian nationals.