NEWS » Italian divorce scam in the UK

Italian divorce scam in the UK

A new fraud “Italian style” has been reported by “The Financial times” and all the main newspapers in the UK and in Italy. 180 divorce cases have been overturned, in what have been defined as a “conspiracy to pervert the course of justice on an almost industrial scale”.

Italians know how long and painful is the way to divorce in their country. Couples in Italy must undergo a three-year legal separation but if they are habitually resident in another EU country, such as the UK, they can divorce in a much shorter time.

In each of the 180 contested divorce cases an Italian petitioner had asked  for divorce in an English court, arguing that they were resident there.

The merit of spotting the scam goes to a member of staff at Burnley crown court, who in 2012 realised that in two files involving Italians, the divorcing parties had given the same residential address. With further investigations it was discovered that in 179 of the divorce cases, the same address at a flat in Maidenhead, Berkshire, was given for the petitioners. The address corresponded to a mailbox on commercial premises.

In 91 cases a decree absolute had been obtained, bringing marriages to an end, but also 71 divorce petitions at an early stage, and 18 cases of decree nisi – a provisional order that does not terminate a marriage – had  been granted.

All these orders are now being set aside as being void for fraud.

The scam was possible because divorce petitions can be filed in 137 county courts in England and Wales.

The judge said that the court service is now centralizing locations for filing divorce petitions, and by next year there will only be about 20 locations where a petition can be issued. But additional measures might be needed.   

Giulia Lombardo

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