An extensive divorce fraud on an “almost industrial scale” involving 179 Italian couples was recently uncovered in England and addressed by the High Court. An organization based in Italy was found to be profiting off of unhappy couples seeking freedom from their marriage and Italy’s strict divorce requirements.
Italian law states that a couple must live apart for three years prior to receiving a divorce. However, in England, couples are able to apply for a divorce at any point after one year of marriage on the grounds of unreasonable behavior, including adultery and desertion. The organization accepted hefty sums from desperate Italian couples to arrange a more expedient separation through the courts in England and Wales.
Using 137 different county courts to avoid being caught, the fraudulent organization charged as much as €4,700 per divorce. Police discovered that a single address in Maidenhead, Berkshire was used for all 179 couples as proof of residency in the U.K.
According to Thames Valley Police, the scheme is believed to have run from August 2010 until July 2012, with each couple paying between €3,450 and €4,700—which translates into just over $4300-$5900 USD.
The High Court of Justice in England and Wales responded to the divorce scam by voiding each of the 179 divorces that were fraudulently performed.
Sir James Munby, President of the High Court’s Family Division, described the fraud as a “conspiracy to pervert the course of justice on an almost industrial scale.” He stated in his judgment that “a decree, whether nisi or absolute, will be void on the ground of fraud if the court has been materially deceived, by perjury, forgery or otherwise, into accepting that it has jurisdiction to entertain the petition.”