Convictions for bogus marriages soar to 284

Convictions for bogus marriages soar to 284

SINGAPORE - A crackdown on sham marriages by the immigration authorities netted 284 convictions last year - more than treble the 89 people convicted in 2012.

The dramatic stepping up of enforcement action coincided with far tougher penalties of up to 10 years in prison applying to these bogus unions.

Typically, marriages of convenience here involve foreign women whose "I do" really means "I do want to live in Singapore".

And for the Singaporean man, it is a case of "I do ...want some easy money" for taking part in the immigration scam.

Middlemen who arrange these unions are also liable under the law.

The data for last year was provided by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) to The Straits Times last week.

The ICA said: "We take a serious view of individuals trying to circumvent our system by engaging in marriages of convenience to obtain immigration facilities."

The women in these marriages are usually from China, Vietnam or India, and want to enter Singapore or extend their stays here. The couples usually do not live together, and in some cases, do not even know each other's names.

Many go through middlemen, who could be Singaporeans or foreigners, with some working in syndicates.

The bogus bridegrooms can get paid thousands for their role in the scam. Meanwhile, the women look for jobs as masseuses and karaoke lounge hostesses, for example.

Last year was the first full year since tougher laws against sham marriage offences were enacted, to "send a strong deterrent signal and better enable the ICA to definitively deal with those who try to abuse the system" and to "stay ahead of the changing modus operandi of immigration offenders".

Previously, sham marriage cases came under Section 57(1)(k) of the Immigration Act, which deals with the making of false statements and carries a maximum penalty of a $4,000 fine and a one-year jail term.

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