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Priest arrested in arranged marriages scam
By thinkSPAIN Team Tue, Oct 27, 2009
Officers from the National Police force have cracked an international network of crooks who have arranged over a hundred marriages of convenience in Spain, receiving payments of between 10,000 and 12,000€ from the 'illegal' immigrants involved.
34 people have been arrested so far, including a priest, for arranging marriages between Colombian nationals, most of them involved in drugs trafficking, and Spaniards, who received 3,000€ for their trouble. Police have not ruled out further arrests.
In exchange for their money, the Colombians involved were able to apply for residency in Spain and later, Spanish nationality.
Amongst the people arrested in Madrid and the town of Valdemoro in the police investigation nicknamed 'Operation Scarlet', are a Colombian-born priest, a civil servant and a lawyer. They will be charged with fraud, forgery and contravening the country's immigration laws amongst other charges.
The majority of the marriages were arranged by a woman known as 'Claudia', Colombian born but with Spanish nationality, who passed herself off as a lawyer working in various districts of Madrid and the surrounding area.
'Claudia' not only took the immigrants' money, but also found them a suitable partner, usually from the poorer areas of the city, arranged all the documentation, including forging certificates, and even bribed witnesses to attend the ceremonies.
The police will now be contacting all the public offices involved to see that these fraudulent marriages are annulled and that all the residency permits resulting from the marriages are cancelled immediately.
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