A SUSPECTED sham marriage in Hampshire was dramatically stopped this morning and the “bride” and “groom” arrested.

Acting on information that the relationship between the man and woman may not be genuine, specialist Home Office Immigration Enforcement Officer arrived at Winchester Register Office at 10am.

The “bride”, a 21-year-old French woman, was arrested on suspicion of perjury, bigamy and assisting unlawful immigration.

It is suspected she has been married twice before, neither of which relationship has been dissolved.

Her would-be “groom”, a 26-year-old Cameroonian national whose leave to remain in the UK expires shortly, was arrested on suspicion of perjury.

Both are now being questioned at a police station in Hampshire, while searches of residential premises in Basingstoke and Lewisham, south London, take place.

Two further arrests were later made at an address in High Street, Winchester. 

A 29-year-old man from the Ivory Coast and a 30-year-old man who presented a Belgium identity card were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to facilitate a breach of UK immigration law just after 11am.

Officers also found a quantity of cash which has been seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

The operation was carried out with the full co-operation of the Superintendent Registrar.

Stuart Reynolds, from the Home Office Immigration Enforcement Criminal Investigations team, said: “We work closely with registrars across the south of England to stop abuse of the marriage system by those who wish to get round our immigration laws.

“Where there are suspicions that a relationship may not be genuine we will investigate and, if necessary, intervene to stop it happening.”

A sham marriage or civil partnership typically occurs when a non-European national marries someone from the European Economic Area as a means of attempting to gain long-term residency and the right to work and claim benefits in the UK.

The Home Office's Immigration Enforcement Criminal Investigations team are specialist trained immigration officers and seconded police who investigate organised immigration crime.

Anyone with information about suspected immigration abuse can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.