Police in Cyprus were distinctly furious this week after prosecutors dropped charges against nine suspects in a fake marriage case, with the Legal department arguing an amended law linking sham marriage to immigration violations was not retroactive.
According to local media, officials from the Legal Department instructed prosecutors to drop charges against nine suspects, who were accused of involvement in arranging fake marriages where one man and five women, including a Cypriot female with a mental disorder, were described as victims.
The defendants were facing multiple charges such as belonging to criminal organization, taking part in committing a crime, fraud conspiracy, human trafficking with the aim of exploiting, aiding and abetting illegal entry of unauthorized aliens, witness tampering, marriage fraud, illegal gains, and forgery.
Back in February 2018, according to details in the case, a state official contacted the police trafficking unit to tell officers that a Greek Cypriot woman had complained about a man from Bangladesh, whom she had married in exchange for money according to the complaint. The woman went to the migration office saying she had been promised €3500 but only got €2000.
The case came to light after a woman went to the migration office to complain that she was promised €3500 but only got €2000 out of a sham marriage
It later emerged that another Greek Cypriot woman had gone to the same office, alleging she had refused a similar offer made to her, with the two females, and the husband of the first woman who was also there, being taken to a trafficking unit office for questioning.
The foreign man, who was described as a victim in the case, had pointed authorities to a local lawyer, saying the attorney had played an instrumental role in organizing the marriage. The man also alleged that he had paid the fixer €4000 in cash.
Two of the defendants were related to another co-defendant in the case, with their father accused of arranging for his son to marry a foreign woman and his daughter with a foreign man.
But after a two year investigation, including about 70 statements from witnesses, evidence from phone records, and a total of nine arrests, the state attorney’s office said prosecutions in the case were based on an amended law in 2020 while the case had been filed in January 2019.
Sham marriage based on a 2019 law had linked marriage fraud to illegal entry with fraudulent intent on the part of a foreign national. But the amendment in 2020, which spelled out additional offences related to sham marriages, including making arrangements for marriage, could not be applied retroactively, the Legal Services department had told prosecutors.
Reports said police investigators were visibly furious over the case, while it was understood that similar cases could be affected by the decision, with authorities possibly unable to prosecute crimes if case were filed before a new law came into effect.