White brides dress and groom holding hands

Dozens of Portuguese women were recruited by an international criminal network that organized at least 130 sham marriages in Cyprus. The so-called “white marriages” allowed the bride and groom, of Indonesian origin, to enter and move freely around Europe.

On Monday, a recruiter for the organization, a Portuguese national, was arrested by the Judicial Police (PJ) on the south bank of Greater Lisbon, as part of an operation coordinated by Europol and which ended with 15 arrests.

According to JN, it was this Portuguese woman – 44 years old and described by Europol as a “high-value target” and an important member of the organization – who convinced women to join the criminal scheme and travel to Cyprus, where they got married, without ever having seen their future husbands, in civil registry offices in cities such as Aradippou, Livadia and Nicosia.

After the wedding, the brides would say goodbye to their partners, return to Portugal, but would have to return to Cyprus half a year later to sign the divorce papers in person, at official venues.

In cases similar to the one now revealed by Europol, which also involved Portuguese women, the women received between 1500 and 2000 euros for participating in the criminal scheme. The same amount was paid to the Portuguese women who agreed to take part in the sham marriages uncovered by the current investigation.

The more than 130 “white marriages” recorded by the investigation led by the Cyprus authorities were essential for many men from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan to obtain Portuguese nationality and, with their new passports, to live and travel legally throughout the Schengen area.

Canvasser accepts extradition to Cyprus

The Portuguese canvasser was arrested by the PJ last Monday in compliance with a European arrest warrant and, as JN knows, has already agreed to be extradited to Cyprus to be charged and tried there. The investigation is continuing into whether the woman had accomplices working in Portugal.

At the same time as the Portuguese woman was arrested, 14 other members of the criminal network were also caught by the authorities in Cyprus and Latvia, where women were also recruited for the sham marriages. Four of the detainees are considered to be the “brains” of the scheme.

Europol suspects that the dismantled criminal network was also involved in “money laundering”, selling false documents and aiding illegal immigration.

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