A corrupt vicar who conducted 28 sham weddings was jailed yesterday. The Rev Canon Dr John Magumba, 58, pocketed at least £8,300 after he agreed to marry Nigerians to Eastern Europeans living in Britain.
The unions enabled the Africans to stay in the UK and claim hundreds of thousands of pounds in benefits.
A court heard that the cost to the taxpayer of one immigrant wrongly entitled to services amounted to £100,000 over a decade, or £230,000 if they had a child.
Yesterday the Church of England vicar – who came to Britain from Uganda with his wife and six children – was told that he had brought scandal to his church as he was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in jail.
Investigators suspect no ceremony actually took place with the ‘couples’ simply given their marriage certificates – dubbed ‘golden tickets’ – after handing him hundreds of pounds.
On one occasion he married the same woman to different men twice in the space of a week, later changing her age in the register to try to avoid suspicion.
So many foreign couples tied the knot at his churches that the local diocese made him head of a committee aimed at detecting sham marriages – unaware that he was the main offender.
Magumba claimed to have conducted his first sham wedding out of compassion because he had been told the bride was HIV positive and urgently needed NHS treatment.
One Nigerian woman took part in ceremonies seven days apart, prompting a church official to demand why she had married two men in the space of a week.
‘He said they were twins, and in some African countries twins were given the same name,’ Joanna Rodikis, prosecuting, told Bolton Crown Court.
Magumba then tried to cover his tracks by crudely altering her age in one of the entries from 28 to 38.
,p>Police became suspicious when they were alerted to the surge in the number of weddings at one of his churches, St Peter’s in Newbold, Rochdale.
There had been no weddings at all at the church between 1996 and 2007, but in the four years after he took over there had been 21.
Magumba admitted conspiracy to facilitate a breach of UK immigration law as well as two counts of theft.
His barrister, Hunter Gray, said: ‘He has spectacularly fallen from grace.
‘One day in prison is going to be too much for him.’