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Trial under way for Thornton Heath vicar accused of most sham marriages in UK legal history

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THE case against a Thornton Heath vicar accused of conducting the most sham marriages in British legal history is due to be outlined as his trial today.

Reverend Nathan Ntege, 55, is alleged to have presided over 492 weddings over a 15-month period at St Jude's with St Aiden's Church, in Thornton Heath, as part of an illegal immigration ring. 

He is standing trial at Inner London Crown Court with Brian Miller, 81, a verger at church, Maudlyn Riviere, 67, Galina Petkova, 51, Georgia  Forteath, 34, Innocent Odoh, 34, and Angela Pelachie, 54. 

A jury was sworn in yesterday (Monday) after potential jurors were asked if they had any connection with the UK Border Agency, the Diocese of Southwark, St Jude's with St Aiden's or St John's Church in Waterloo. 

Ntege, who wore his dog collar in the dock, is charged with 14 immigration offences relating to marriages at the Church of St Jude's and St Aidan's in Thornton Road.

He also faces a charge of fraud in relation to £69,498 of marriage fees he allegedly failed to pay to the Diocese of Southwark. 

Petkova is alleged to have acted as a "fixer" for a number of weddings, as well as allegedly being married in one of the ceremonies herself. 

The charges follow an investigation by the UK Border Agency's (UKBA) South London Criminal and Financial Investigation Unit.

Ntege was originally arrested on suspicion of conducting sham marriages on June 4, 2011.

The church was searched as part of the investigation, the Diocese of Southwark and Church of England were informed and Miller was arrested on November 17.

The prosecution is expected to open its case at 10am today (Tuesday).

Ntege, of Dunheaved Road North, Thornton Heath, denies 14 charges of commissioning a breach of UK immigration law and one of fraud by abuse of position between January 15, 2007, and May 31, 2011.

Riviere, of Lucerne Road, Thornton Heath, Croydon, faces 15 charges of commissioning a breach of UK immigration law.

Miller, of Owl Close, South Croydon, denies seven charges of commissioning a breach of UK immigration law.

Petkova, of Shrubbery Road, Enfield, North London, denies seven of the same charges.

Forteath, of South Norwood, South London, faces two charges of commissioning a breach of UK immigration law.

Pelachie, of Florida Road, Croydon, denies one count of commissioning a breach of UK immigration law and another of deception in relation to UK immigration law between 20 April 2010 and 10 January 2011.

Odoh, of Brownhill Road, Lewisham, southeast London, faces a charge of commissioning a breach of UK immigration law and another of deception in relation to UK immigration law between 18 May 2011 and 29 February 2012.

Trial under way for Thornton Heath vicar accused of most sham marriages in UK legal history


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