Bevan Hurley

Bevan Hurley is the Herald on Sunday chief reporter.

Kiwi caught up in Moroccan marriage con

Australian migration tribunal refuses to let young bride of 'lonely' New Zealander into the country

The New Zealander flew with his former wife to Casablanca to meet his new partner.
The New Zealander flew with his former wife to Casablanca to meet his new partner.

It could have come straight from a Mills & Boon novel: a lonely Kiwi meets a Moroccan woman 30 years his junior over the internet. He travels to the North African country and converts to Islam to marry her and take her back to Australia to start a family.

But immigration officials smelled something awry in the spicy intercontinental affair after it emerged the Kiwi man's ex-wife had also travelled with him to the Moroccan city of Casablanca and married the bride's brother in the same ceremony.

The four even went on honeymoon together, visiting tourist sites in the country bordering the Sahara Desert.

The bizarre love rectangle was outlined in a case before a Migration Review Tribunal of Australia hearing this month.

The 55-year-old Kiwi moved to Sydney 20 years ago and worked as a supervisor at a well-known Australian company.

He separated from his wife - with whom he has two adult children - many years ago but they remained good friends.

The "lonely" Kiwi man told the tribunal he had not wanted to get involved with a younger woman but thought "what the heck" and started an online relationship with the 24-year-old after being introduced online by her brother.

He applied for a loan from GE Finance and paid for himself and his ex-wife to travel to Morocco in April 2010.

He took a passport, birth certificate and baptism certificate in preparation for the wedding.

"They arrived in Casablanca, Morocco, and embraced their respective partners at the airport and then caught a train," the judgment said.

They married the following month in a traditional ceremony, and photographs were presented to the tribunal.

The Kiwi man converted to Islam before the ceremony but couldn't name his nearest mosque in Sydney or display any basic knowledge of the religion.

He also took a character reference from a Maori elder to the tribunal - but it denied entry to his young Moroccan bride.

In declining her visa application, an official said the tribunal found it too hard to accept a married couple of 30 years with two children and six grandchildren "would travel together to marry a brother and sister much younger than themselves, from different cultural, religious and linguistic backgrounds and conduct joint weddings and honeymoons before returning to Australia together".

It found the man and his former wife had been complicit in trying to get a "positive migration outcome" but stopped short of calling the marriage in Morocco a sham.

Rather, the tribunal said the Kiwi was an uncomplicated, lonely man who had been encouraged by the bride's brother into the relationship with "little or no insight into the nature of the relationship or the motivation of the visa applicant".

- Herald on Sunday

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