Sham marriages solicitor loses appeal against conviction


RCJ

Rafferty LJ: “A sham bride was an essential for a sham marriage”

A solicitor convicted of assisting unlawful immigration into a European Union member state this week lost his appeal against conviction, shortly after being struck off by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.

Nazarat Ali, a former sole practitioner and principal of Ali Sinclair Solicitors in East London, helped clients secure immigration status in the UK through sham marriages between Indian or Pakistani men and women, mainly from Eastern Europe.

Mr Ali was sentenced to six years in jail by Inner London Crown Court in April 2014 and his firm was shut down by the SRA in the same month.

Lady Justice Rafferty told the Court of Appeal that the acts relied on by the prosecution were “broadly similar”, in that he provided a bride, who was brought by an associate to his office and taken to meet his client. He then advised the couple to apply for a certificate of approval (COA) from the UK Border Agency.

“These were acts capable of facilitating a breach of immigration law by the clients,” Rafferty LJ said. “A sham bride was essential for a sham marriage and the appellant was instrumental in finding her.

“A condition precedent for a sham marriage was an application for a COA, a document the Crown proved the appellant was instrumental in creating and submitting.”

Delivering judgment in R v Ali [2015] EWCA Crim 43, Rafferty LJ said the right of permanent residence in the UK could only be acquired if the marriage were not a ‘sham’ carried out solely for immigration purposes.

Lady Justice Rafferty said the offence Mr Ali was said to have facilitated was a breach of section 24A of the Immigration Act 1971. There was no need for a sham marriage to have taken place for the offence to be committed, but the Crown still had to prove that Mr Ali’s acts “facilitated” them.

She dismissed Mr Ali’s appeal. Mr Justice Foskett and Judge Carey, sitting as a judge of the Court of Appeal, agreed.

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal struck Mr Ali off the roll of solicitors at the end of last month, and ordered him to pay costs of £1,650. The SDT’s ruling is awaiting publication.

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