A Church of England vicar accused of conducting hundreds of sham marriages in order to help immigrants gain residency in Britain was Thursday found guilty of "conspiring to facilitate illegal immigration.", dpa reported
The Reverend Alex Brown, who is 61, and two co-defendants, will be sentenced on September 6, Lewes Crown Court in the county of Sussex, south of London, ruled Thursday.
The court heard that of the 383 weddings Brown conducted over four years at the Church of St Peter and St Paul in the seaside town of St Leonards, 360 were fake.
The number of weddings that took place at the church rocketed 30-fold between August 2001 and July, the court heard.
Brown pleaded guilty to a charge of solemnising marriage without the banns being duly published, but denied knowing that the marriages were false.
Suspicion of him grew when typically English names on the marriage register were outnumbered by African and European names, the court heard.
His co-defendant, 33-year-old Ukrainian Vladymyr Buchak, was found guilty of a breach of immigration laws by paying East European migrants who were in Britain legally financial incentives to marry Africans, mainly from Nigeria.
Buchak had been responsible for "cajoling and persuading" people into marriages of convenience, the court heard, paying them up to 3,000 pounds (4,700 dollars) to do so.
Michael Adelasoye, a 50-year-old Nigerian-born pastor and solicitor, advised the African participants - many of whom he knew through his role as pastor at a nearby church - on legal points.
The defendants were caught after police investigated the bogus marriages last year. Documents found during a search of the church had been altered to conceal the dramatic rise in weddings, the court heard.
Investigation of the documents revealed that the hundreds of people who had got married all appeared to live in the surrounding area of the church, with 90 couples registered as living in one road alone and 52 in another.
In some instances, there were several brides and grooms claiming to live in the same house as jurors were told that most of those involved had given false addresses.
The prosecution argued that Brown could not possibly have believed that all the foreign nationals involved lived within his parish