Hunt for 400 couples in sham marriages

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 January, 2007, 12:00am

Three cross-border syndicates that arranged fake unions smashed, 91 held

Immigration officials on both sides of the border have launched a joint manhunt for more than 400 couples implicated in bogus marriages following the arrest of 91 people and seizure of more than 1,200 fake identity cards and marriage certificates.

At least three syndicates are suspected of organising the fake marriages.

More than 200 mainland and local law enforcement officers raided 65 locations in Hong Kong and Guangdong and apprehended 75 mainlanders and 16 Hong Kong residents on Monday and Tuesday.

During the operation, four factories used to manufacture forged Hong Kong identity cards were closed down in Shenzhen.

More than 340 fake Hong Kong identity cards, bogus home-return cards, 170 forged identity cards for mainland residents, hundreds of fake marriage documents and forged official stamps were seized, according to immigration acting assistant director (enforcement and litigation) Yip Kim-kwan.

'We have smashed three cross-border syndicates that set up bogus marriages between Hong Kong and mainland residents and helped mainlanders to cheat with marriage certificates that were used to apply for two-way permits,' he said.

He pointed out that the permits for visiting relatives in Hong Kong, which were issued by mainland authorities, allowed them to stay in Hong Kong for 90 days so they could find work illegally or work as prostitutes.

Mr Yip said most mainlanders involved in such bogus marriages were females.

'We think the syndicates had been operating for about one to two years,' he said.

Investigations showed that mainland clients paid middlemen between HK$20,000 and HK$60,000 and Hong Kong residents received HK$10,000 for such marriages.

The department said some of the Hong Kong residents involved had been married twice - once in Hong Kong with their own documents and a second time on the mainland with bogus identification - to receive two payments.

Mainland and local authorities started investigating the three syndicates in August. The 91 suspects in custody on both sides of the border included key figures of the syndicates. The arrest of a mainland woman, 29, in Hong Kong last week led to the discovery of more than 100 fake marriage cases. It was not clear whether she was related to the syndicates.

She told officers that she had paid 20,000 yuan to marry a Hong Kong man, 31, on the mainland in 2003 to get a two-way permit and work illegally in Hong Kong.

Investigations showed that her 'husband' had married another mainland woman, 21, in Hong Kong. In his flat, immigration officers seized copies of marriage documents and Hong Kong identity cards and other suspected fake documents. He is still at large.

Thirty people were successfully prosecuted in connection with bogus marriages in the past six months. Their jail terms ranged from four to 21 months.

Mr Yip said the quality of the fake Hong Kong identity cards seized was very poor.



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