South London vicar 'presided over 492 sham marriages in 15 months'

(Photo: S Braswell)

A vicar presided over a 'conveyor belt' of sham marriages between people who had never met, a London court heard today.

Rev Nathan Ntege, 55, is said to have conducted 492 ceremonies as part of an illegal immigration ring, the Daily Mail reports.

If found guilty, he will be responsible for the most sham marriages in UK legal history.

Ntege, who is originally from Uganda, is said to have conducted the marriages over a15-month period at St Jude's and St Aidan's in Thornton Heath, south London.

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

He is being tried at Inner London Crown Court alongside Brian Miller, 81, a verger at the church, and the church secretary, Maudlyn Riviere, 67. Others are also standing trial for allegedly participating in the marriages.

The marriages are said to have been between illegal immigrants and EU nationals with the right to live in the UK who had not met each other before the day.

On one occasion there were nine weddings booked for one day. Couples queued at the back and some brides shared the same wedding gown.

Prosecutor Edward Lucas said: "'Persons wishing to go through with these bogus or sham marriages were introduced specifically to this church because it was a 'no questions asked' church."

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

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

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