Italian held in bungled 'sham marriage' raid

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Border police had invited a journalist along to witness the raid. Photo: Metropolitan Police
18:07 CET+01:00
British immigration officials admitted Friday that they mistakenly raided the wedding of an Italian man and his Chinese bride because they believed the marriage was a sham.

Massimo Ciabattini and his bride Miao Guo had their big day ruined when border police stormed into their wedding ceremony at a London town hall last week and hauled them out for questioning.

The couple, who met working at the luxury department store Harrods, had attracted a registrar's suspicion because Guo's visa was due to expire soon and they appeared to have difficulty spelling each other's names.

Border officials realized their mistake after questioning the couple and their bridesmaids. The marriage ceremony resumed afterwards, the town hall confirmed.

To compound officials' embarrassment, they had invited a journalist from a local newspaper along to witness the raid as an example of their work combatting bogus marriages between strangers trying to gain British residency.

An interior ministry official told the Camden New Journal reporter there had been clues the wedding was genuine, including the fact that the couple were "extremely good-looking" and wearing expensive clothes, including the bride's real Chanel handbag.

Sham marriages often involve "mismatched" couples who turn up for the service in anoraks, the official told the newspaper.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "At the time no arrests were made. However, our investigations are continuing and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage."

Ciabattini is a retail manager for Harrods, while his wife is a sales consultant for Prada.

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Immigration is a hot political issue in Britain, where border officials carried out some 500 raids on "suspect" weddings last year.

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