Police issued 19 arrest warrants on Saturday against European and third-country nationals in connection with sham marriages after it emerged that fake documents had been submitted at a Limassol district municipality for a number of civil marriages officiated last month.
According to the Cyprus News Agency, police issued arrest warrants for people from India, Pakistan, Romania and Latvia after an official of the Mesa Yitonia municipality reported that, following a tip off, they found that fake documents had been presented concerning six civil marriages officiated last month.
Following investigations, CNA said, it emerged that a 28-year-old man from India had been the mediator for the arrangement of these six marriages, whose details authorities have not been able to locate as it appears that he entered the country illegally.
Police also discovered that, in relation to the same case, three more sham marriages took place last month, two at the Tseri municipality in Nicosia and one in Sotira municipality in the Famagusta district.
Police believe that all these marriages are linked with the case as all documents presented concerning these marriages appear the bear the same fake stamp and file number.
Aside from the 28-year-old, it emerged that the other 18 suspects – both the third country nationals that were on the island as students and European Union citizens who had arrived as tourists – left the country shortly after the marriages were officiated.
Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos had announced earlier in the year that his ministry’s services would take “drastic prevention measures” before issuing certificates that will include grilling any couples that involve an EU citizen and a third-country national.
Hasikos said that in the past three years many sham marriages had taken place in Cyprus and that efforts would be now focused on prevention, before the immigration department issues certificates of freedom that allow couples to marry. The minister said it was an issue of human trafficking as there are rings that promote such marriages.
Police last year investigated dozens of cases involving sham marriages, usually among women from European countries and men from third countries. In a number of cases it was discovered that the women had been trafficked.