By SAT News Desk
MELBOURNE, 20 November: The Australian Border Force (ABF) has busted a ‘contrived marriage syndicate’ operating out of Sydney, with a 32-year-old Indian national facing court over his alleged role as the main facilitator. A further four Australian citizens are facing charges for allegedly convincing individuals to fraudulently marry non-citizens seeking to obtain permanent residency, says an ABF media release.
The syndicate targets South Asians by organizing contrived marriage scams with promises to Indians wanting permanent residency in Australia.
The long-running operation by the ABF also resulted in 164 foreign nationals having their applications for a Partner visa refused after they were linked to the syndicate. None of the participants in this scam obtained permanent residency. Some of these clients paid significant amounts of money, for no immigration outcome.
While contrived marriages are not unique to any one nationality, this particular syndicate was attempting to illegally facilitate fake marriages with non-citizens in the South Asian community.
These types of scams generally target vulnerable young Australian women, many of whom come from disadvantaged and low socio-economic backgrounds. The non-citizens, attempting to enter or stay in Australia, generally pay a significant sum of money to the facilitator.
The ABF has also been successful in combating contrived marriages in Victoria, with one individual sentenced to six months imprisonment for fraud offences against the Migration Act.
ABF Acting Investigations Commander, Clinton Sims, said the syndicates undermine the integrity of Australia’s visa program and exploit desperate individuals.
“Many of the women involved in these scams have suffered a history of substance abuse, family violence and financial hardship, and are lured in with promises of substantial payments,” Commander Sims said.
“Those seeking a visa through a contrived marriage also need to understand that paying a facilitator will not buy them a permanent visa pathway in Australia. There is rarely any financial recourse in the event that their Partner visa application is unsuccessful.”
“Protecting the integrity of the visa system is an operational priority for the ABF and anyone found to be involved in, or facilitating sham marriages should expect to be investigated and face criminal prosecution. Registered agents and marriage celebrants also face losing their registration.”
The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) has charged the 32-year-old Indian national with four counts of arranging a marriage to obtain permanent residence, contrary to Section 240 of the Migration Act 1958. The maximum penalty is a fine up to $210,000 and/or 10 years imprisonment.
The remaining four individuals have each been charged with offenses under the Migration Act and Criminal Code.
The Department of Home Affairs has a range of measures in place to ensure the integrity of the Partner visa program. These measures include assessing detailed documentary evidence, conducting interviews and home visits, and limitations on the number of times a person can sponsor a partner to Australia.
Members of the public who have information about possible visa fraud are encouraged to report it to ABF’s Border Watch program by visiting Australia.gov.au/borderwatch. Information can be given anonymously.