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Priest charged on marriages

25 January 2013

by a staff reporter

A PRIEST has been charged with 14 immigration offences relating to 492 marriages, conducted over a 15-month period.

The Vicar of St Jude with St Aidan, Thornton Heath, in south London, the Revd Nathan Ntege, was arrested in June last year after an investigation into sham marriages by the UK Border Agency (News, 12 August, 2011).

Agency officials are not yet certain how many of the marriages, conducted between December 2009 and March 2011, are valid.

Mr Ntege has been suspended by the diocese of Southwark. His 79-year-old verger, Brian Miller, has also been arrested, and charged with the same offences.

The two men appeared in court last week, but spoke only to confirm their names and addresses. They will appear at a preliminary hearing at Croydon Crown Court today.

Mr Ntege, originally from Uganda, was bailed on the condition that he does not attend St Jude's, officiate at a religious building or service, or apply for travel documents.

He was first arrested in June 2011, and the church was searched as part of the investigation. A third person, Galena Petkova, was also arrested in December 2011, on suspicion of acting as a "fixer" for a number of weddings, as well as being married in one of the ceremonies herself. Ms Petkova has been charged with conspiracy and five charges of assisting illegal entry, and will appear in court next month.

In 2010, the Revd Alex Brown was jailed for presiding over 360 sham weddings in Hastings - the biggest case so far (News, 10 September 2010).

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