Qld Wedding Visa Scammers Win Appeal
A man and woman jailed for swindling more than $100,000 from desperate men through a wedding visa scam have successfully appealed against some of their convictions after a court ruled most of the marriages weren't valid.
Chetan Mashru, a former immigration officer, and celebrant Divya Gowda, were both sentenced to jail in February 2017 after being convicted of arranging the bogus marriages of 16 Indian men to Australians in a "one-stop shop" set up at their Oxley townhouse in 2011.
Mashru was sentenced to a minimum of two years and three months imprisonment while Gowda was sentenced to serve 18 months in jail before being released on a three-year good behaviour bond.
The pair were convicted on 66 charges, of which 34 related to Mashru helping grooms complete dishonest immigration applications.
Friday's appeal ruling ordered 16 of the convictions against the pair be set aside and both Mashru and Gowda acquitted of the charges.
In upholding the appeal, it was deemed in 15 of cases "there was no marriage at all" under the terms of the Marriage Act.
None of the 15 marriages had been "solemnised" through practices such as the exchanging of vows or a wedding ceremony, the court ruled.
They will face a re-trial on in relation to only one of the weddings, which the court found was different to the others because there had been an exchange of wedding vows on the basis of evidence given during the original trial by one of the participants.
"In my view it was open to the jury to have found, had they been asked the question, that in this case there was a duly solemnised marriage, so that there was a valid marriage under the Marriage Act," Justice Philip McMurdo ruled.