Cypriot police officers traveled to Germany this week to pick up a marriage fraud suspect, who is believed to have fled the island where his wife was recently recognized as a trafficking victim in an ongoing criminal case.
Police said a 24-year-old male was arrested this week when his plane from Germany touched down at Larnaca International Airport. The suspect, who was being escorted by Greek Cypriot police officers, was extradited to Cyprus on charges related to marriage fraud, trafficking and forgery.
The man, described as a lawful resident originally from a country in South Asia, had married a European female in a local municipality back in 2019 and has been working in the Republic of Cyprus up to date.
Earlier this year, Cypriot law enforcement recognized his wife as a trafficking victim, while another man described as a 34-year-old foreign national from the same country was arrested and arraigned in court on similar charges.
Police declined to provide specific details about the case but told Knews on Friday that Cypriot investigators have been cooperating with their counterparts in Germany, Romania, United Kingdom, and Europol.
The 34-year-old suspect is currently facing multiple charges in an ongoing criminal trial after his arrest by special officers in the anti-trafficking unit.
But police stopped short of describing the extradition as part of a broader investigation, saying the charges against the two suspects were related to the same case.
Two years ago, foreign embassies including the missions of Romania and Portugal, complained about the existence of an illegal network in Cyprus in connection with sham marriages.
The story involves a large number of women from European Union countries who are often involved in civil marriages in Cyprus with foreign men, typically from African or Asian countries, in exchange for money.
Embassies raised questions of due diligence, citing as example a case of a woman who got married to three other men in Cyprus using a different name each time.
But in 2019 more specific accusations were leveled against Cyprus, when Latvian government officials raised a red flag over civil marriages between women from Latvia and men from Asian countries.
According to the Latvia’s accusations, as reported in the media, the Aradippou local municipality officiated at a very large number of civil marriages without obtaining proper documentation.
Municipal authorities in Aradippou were accused of officiating marriages between Latvian women and men from India, Pakistan, and Nepal, while legal documents or marriage licenses were never issued by Latvian authorities.
Police declined to comment either on the specific municipality in the ongoing case or provide the nationality of the woman who was recognized as a trafficking victim a few months ago.
But a police communications officer told Knews on Friday that this week’s extradition and two arrests in the case had the markings of a marriage fraud network that enables individuals to take part in illegal activities.
Both foreign nationals and local citizens have been prosecuted in marriage fraud cases in the Republic of Cyprus, including a local family-run attorney firm which was found to have facilitated travel of European females to Cyprus match between brides and grooms.
While a marriage of convenience in the Republic of Cyprus is not illegal unless fraud or coercion takes place, matrimony under false pretences when there is no genuine relationship between the parties could land someone in jail.
Immigration officers in Cyprus have been particularly strict on marriages between foreign nationals and local or European spouses, citing high incidence of immigration fraud.