The wedding guests were complete strangers and only attended the Brisbane civil ceremony to collect $100.
And the newlyweds had only tied the knot in a bid to obtain Australian visas and permanent residency.
The sham wedding ended up costing Chao Hsien Hung his own marriage and ultimately his freedom, as he was sentenced this week in the Brisbane District Court.
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The court heard Hung, 39, a former Justice of the Peace, helped organise the January 2018 marriage between a woman, a Malaysian citizen, and a man, a Chinese national, in an attempt to help both gain visas that would allow them to stay in Australia.
While the first time the man and woman met was at the wedding, Hung had witnessed and stamped their statutory declarations which claimed they were in a genuine relationship and had been for many years, the court heard.
“Their relationship was not genuine, it was a sham marriage,” Judge Terry Gardiner said on Wednesday.
Hung pleaded guilty to two counts of arranging a marriage to obtain permanent residence and seven counts of providing false documents with misleading information relating to non-citizens.
The court heard the wedding was a sham. Credit: Anna Blazhuk/Getty Images
As a JP, Hung not only helped organise supporting documents relating to the wedding but also the visa applications, the court was told.
“These documents were designed to deceive the Department of Home Affairs into believing that … (the couple) were in a genuine, married relationship,” Gardiner said.
“Motivation for marrying each other was that they could each help each other obtain visas.”
The “couple” also needed needed two witnesses older than 18 to be present for the wedding.
The court heard two men were independently approached and both agreed to attend the civil ceremony for $100 each.
Hung used identification and personal details of the two men for supporting documents.
There was also financial motivation, the court was told. The woman negotiated an agreement with Hung whereby she would receive $30,000 for helping the man get a visa.
Hung expected to receive $5000 for his involvement, but he did not receive a cent.
He paid a heavy price, however, defence barrister Wayne Tolton said.
His wife and mother of his two children left him as a direct result of his offending, Tolton said.
“The wife apparently couldn’t stand the shame that he had brought upon the family and felt unable to live with him any longer,” he said.
Hung told police he was the “middle man”, saying clients who wanted permanent residency in Australia would be referred to him through friends.
Undermining the immigration system
Hung’s offending had the potential to undermine Australia’s immigration system, the court was told.
“In my view it does make it potentially more difficult for the Department of Home Affairs to discover unlawful schemes,” Gardiner said.
“Your position as a justice of the peace and your willing misuse of that position which was instrumental in creating the false documents should be the subject of condemnation by the court.”
Hung was sentenced to 2½ years in prison. He will be released on a 2½-year, $2000 good behaviour bond after serving four months.
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