Aradippou municipality lashed out on Monday, saying it informed authorities about issues with sham marriages almost six years ago, following reports that a Europe-wide ring was busted last week.

In reports that followed the original Europol bust, it emerged that Aradippou along with Livadia and Nicosia were found to have been targets for sham marriages.

Attempting to clarify any involvement, Aradippou municipality issued a statement on Monday saying that they had been warning authorities since 2018.

Having identified deficiencies and weaknesses in the whole system with letters to the authorities in 2018, we had drawn the attention of the authorities and requested the assistance of the state services to take measures to address them,” the municipality said.

The municipality added that they had also informed the civil registry and migration department and the police in 2019 about an increase in marriage applications from certain EU member states with third country nationals.

According to the municipality, their officials held meetings with ambassadors and consuls of Bulgaria, Romania and Latvia and made suggestions for better control, suggestions which they also forwarded to the foreign and interior ministries.

Aradippou municipality said in their announcement that one of the suggestions is for the creation of a digital platform for municipalities and the interior ministry to communicate and keep a database of the marriages performed by each municipality.

“The municipalities have neither the means nor the power to verify the authenticity of the documents presented before them for the celebration of a marriage, in most cases by the law offices of the Republic,” the statement added.

“Aradippou municipality has processed every act in accordance with the Marriage Law of 2003 (104(I)/2003) and has been a pioneer as no other municipality in the development of wedding tourism, especially from the countries of Israel and Lebanon, processing thousands of marriages annually,” they added.

“It [the municipality] has also refused to perform marriages if the provisions of the law were not met, regardless of pressure from law firms or others representing the couple.”

Last week, fifteen arrests were made in Cyprus, Latvia and Portugal, as part of a recent Europol operation to dismantle a ring of sham marriages, headquartered in Cyprus.

Four of those arrested allegedly arranged more than 130 sham marriages in Cyprus, with the aim of facilitating the illegal stay of third-country nationals in EU countries.

Europol had set up an operation, with the codename “Operational Task Force Limassol”.