Renee, 18, was paid money to marry a complete stranger as part of a spousal visa scam run by a husband and wife team in Brisbane.
Renee was one of 16 young women “married off” by partners Chetan Mashru, a migration officer, and Divya Gowda, a marriage celebrant.
The pair ran the operation from their Brisbane townhouse and targeted young women, struggling financially, as a way to bring “grooms” into the country on a spousal visa.
The court heard grooms were willing to pay up to $40,000 to marry an Australian bride. The bride would receive payments for more than two years, which is the amount of time is takes for an Indian groom to qualify for citizenship.
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On last night’s A Current Affair, Renee said she was paid $600 up front, and then $1000 each month, to marry a man she met for “two minutes” as they signed the papers.
Most of the ceremonies were conducted at the Brisbane townhouse, and involved signed documents and handing over birth certificates.
“These were sham marriages,” crown prosecutor Greg Lynham told the jury in his closing address on Wednesday, after a two-week trial. “There’s no courtship, there’s no dating, there’s no getting to know each other. It’s simply rock up to the townhouse, sign some forms … and then the parties go their separate ways, usually with the bride somewhat financially more benefited than what she was when she walked in.”
Renee was brought into the scheme after she was introduced to Mashru and Gowda through a friend. She was interested in the idea of earning money and reassured that “you can’t get into trouble, they [immigration officers] won’t find out”.
After a time, she claimed she was not being paid the money she was promised and her “husband” Manjeet had disappeared.
Another witness, 25-year-old Leilani Rose May said she was paid $1000 for marrying Amritpal Singh in 2011 and, following this, $250 per week.
In a statutory declaration, May said she was learning Punjabi, and how to make curry. She also said she wanted to travel with Signh after his visa was approved. Later, May admitted this statement was false, except for one aspect: "I love curries."
Mashry and Gowda were found guilty of 66 charges, 34 of these relate to Mashru assisting grooms complete dishonest immigration applications.
The pair are due to be sentenced in a Brisbane court today.