A recent scam has been uncovered whereby Italian fraudsters have successfully conned English Courts into approving 179 divorces. The scam was used as a fast track for unhappy Italian couples who could achieve a quick divorce in English Courts rather than waiting a minimum of three years to obtain a divorce in Italy.
The scam was achieved by providing the couples with a series of false addresses stating that the couple had been separated for two years in accordance with English law, when in reality the couples had been separated for a much lesser period.
It is believed that the fraudsters could have made up to £500,000 in the scam, capitalising on the need for a faster divorce process in Italy, consciously exploiting unhappy couples and their want for a prompt resolution to their difficulties. The couples involved paid a sum of £3,000 to £4,000 each for the service, with all the divorces being finalised between August 2010 and February 2012. In exchange for the money the fraudsters filled out all the paper work for their clients using the address of mailbox in Maidenhead as the home address – leading the Court to believe that the Italians resided in the UK.
The scam was able to continue for so long as the addresses were never cross referenced and they were only discovered after a Court official employee questioned why a couple were filing for a divorce 200 miles from where they lived, thereafter revealing the full extent of the criminal operation.
The scandal has raised concerns over the ease of divorce under English Law raising the question as to whether similar schemes may also be being used by couples from different countries. The duration of a divorce from filing to finalisation, despite a recent increase in delays, is still one of the quickest and more importantly cheapest places in the world. As a result, the UK is sometimes seen by those in other countries as a destination to obtain a quick and easy divorce.