Police have identified major fraudulent marriage rings in The Bahamas, Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes Unit Director Superintendent Matthew Edgecombe said as he reported an uptick in Haitian men marrying Bahamian women to gain status.
“Recently, we have seen an increase in the offense fraudulent marriages here in The Bahamas,” Edgecombe told The Nassau Guardian.
“In our investigations, we have found that there are rings,” he continued. “In fact, we find that persons are out there recruiting young ladies for marriages. So, there is a ring and it goes deeper.”
Edgecombe said while people from multiple nationalities have been complicit in this type of fraud, the vast majority of accused offenders have been Jamaicans and Haitians.
“But, recently, we’ve seen a great amount of Haitian men getting married to Bahamian ladies,” he said.
“[F]rom our interviews with the young females involved, they were telling us that they were paid up to $2,500 and promised additional funds.
“But, what they learn is once the marriage has taken place, they don’t get no monies from that.”
According to statistics, in 2018 and 2019, there were 13 marriage fraud matters investigated by police that resulted in 15 people being charged, including two justices of the peace.
Seven of those matters were placed before the courts and ended with convictions that resulted with fines or custodial sentences.
With the topic gaining more attention recently, Edgecombe says he hopes more victims come forward.
“They are hurting somebody,” Edgecombe said, referring to Bahamians who sell their birthright.
“They are hurting our country. When people [enter into] fake marriages, they are allowed to work here, they are allowed to do business in this country. They are allowed, sometimes, to get permanent residency.”
“It’s all a big sham. It’s really hurting the whole community. It is hurting the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. I would ask them to please stop it.
“[W]hen you marry someone, that’s real. If you were to die, the person you marry could take everything you own.”
Edgecombe said police are also investigating a greater number of stolen identity claims.
“Just yesterday, a lady came into my office and said that she had a young baby and she went to register the child,” he said.
“She was informed that she could not register the child because she is married to a foreign national.
“She was shocked because she never got married in her life. And the marriage was performed by a justice of the peace. Now she is reporting the marriage to us. And we need to find the persons responsible.”