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European police roll up sham marriage gang

Police have busted a gang exchanging fake marriages for large sums of money to give illegal immigrants European Union citizenship, European law enforcement agencies said Tuesday.

The Europol and Eurojust agencies said in a combined statement from The Hague that a total of 24 people had been arrested.

Police in Britain, France and Portugal arrested the suspects who were allegedly part of a sham marriage scam involving Indian, Nigerian, Pakistani and Portuguese citizens.

“Investigations established that the Portuguese organised crime group had been recruiting prospective brides and grooms in Portugal,” the statement said.

In return, it was offering, “in exchange for large sums of money, the possibility for persons without any residence permits to marry in various (EU) member states and apply for EU citizenship a few years later.”

Police pounced simultaneously in Britain, France and Portugal and searched a total of 23 homes and an office.

“Seizures include cash, documentation, mobile telephones, SIM cards, computers, one hard disk drive and 1.5 kilogrammes of hashish,” the statement said.