Anglican Vicar and African Pastor Found Guilty in Wedding Scam involving Ukrainian Sausage Factory Worker

An interesting tale of globalization, from the Anglican church of St Peter and St Paul in St Leonards-on-Sea on the south coast of England; the Independent (among others) reports:

A jury at Lewes Crown Court decided that Vladymyr Buchak, a Ukrainian national, Michael Adelasoye, a Nigeria-born solicitor, and the Anglican vicar Alex Brown were all guilty of conspiring to breach Britain’s immigration laws by organising hundreds of bogus weddings.

In the unremarkable church, hundreds of West Africans tied the knot with impoverished local Eastern Europeans who were paid up to £3,000 to be a bride or husband for the day.

[Buchak] targeted vulnerable Eastern Europeans who were struggling to make ends meet… The West Africans entered the scam through Adelasoye, a 50-year-old immigration solicitor who lived locally and preached at the Ark of Hope evangelical church in Hastings.

…[Brown’s] parish, a predominantly white area to the west of Hastings, had suddenly become one of most cosmopolitan corners of the South East, with 90 mixed race couples marrying from one road alone.

Brown’s motives remain a mystery: was he “grasping” for cash (the Sun) and “preying” on “desperate” East Europeans (as the prosecutor claimed)? Did he feel sorry for Africans facing deportation and decide to break the law to assist their efforts to remain in the UK? Or was he, as he suggested in his own defence, simply overwhelmed by a situation he found himself in?

…”I’m not trained in immigration law. I can say that now looking in hindsight.”

Earlier, he told the court he felt pressured by the “constant train” of foreign nationals coming to him wanting to get married and would lead to him drinking up to three pints of cider an evening, but he denied touching spirits.

He said: “It was the pressure of work and the constant harassment of applicants.

“They didn’t want to wait for a marriage. They wanted it the next day or the next week.”

However, Brown made some efforts to conceal the number of weddings he was performing; according to the Daily Mail, he

…also became the only vicar in 800 years to be convicted of failing to read out the banns – asking the congregation if they knew of ‘any just cause or impediment’ why two people may not marry.

Less attention has been paid to Pastor Michael Adelasoye, although the Hastings and St Leonards Observer profiled him a few weeks ago:

Michael Adelasoye, 50… was once employed by Hastings Borough Council as a community cohesion officer as the town struggled to adapt to the influx of immigrants.

“…There were Tutsis living with Hutus, and Christians living with Muslims, which caused a lot of problems.”

As for his own background:

… He told the jury he was raised a Muslim, but converted to Christianity shortly after moving to the UK in 1978.

After getting a degree in community law, he moved to Hastings in 2001 working for a legal firm in Eastbourne before setting up the Ark of Hope Chambers…

He was involved in one high-profile case in 2007, when he assisted twin Jewish Kyrgyz refugees to remain in Birmingham.

His firm has a website here, and his associated Ark of Hope charity and Ark of Hope Christian Centre has a site here. The remains of an older site can be glimpsed on Google cache; there was a link to an “evangelistic poem” called “The Court Date”, although I couldn’t access it. According to this site, the church used to an Elim Pentecostal church, although it now seems to be independent. The church also has a Facebook page and a YouTube channel; there are other pastors involved, including a non-African. The church also has an associated “Saturday Street Evangelism” mission; according to its website “The counter to the side is ticking off the number of people who have died since you opened this. The vast majority of those people are entering Hell.” That’s typical “street-preacher” fare anywhere (see here), although the grim emphasis on hellfire is somewhat at odds with the Ark of Hope’s more upbeat image.

As for Buchak, the Independent reports that he had been “thrown out of Sweden for marijuana use and had entered the UK illegally using false identity”, and was posing as a Latvian. Various reports add the detail that he also worked in “a sausage factory in Bexhill”, and this was where he found some of the Eastern Europeans to take part in the weddings.