HE was a cricket star for several Huddersfield clubs.
But Javed Iqbal was caught out – trying to “buy” a British bride for £5,000.
The player at the centre of a sham marriage plan has appeared before a judge and admitted guilt.
Iqbal, a Pakistani national who played for Holmfirth, Skelmanthorpe and Almondbury in the Drakes League, has admitted paying fixers to arrange a wedding for him.
Iqbal, 39, of Moorbottom Road, Thornton Lodge, paid £5,000 to marry British woman Natalie Roberts in a bid to obtain UK citizenship.
But the plan was busted by UK Border Agency officials who arrested him and his bride to be as they tried to wed at Huddersfield Town Hall in April last year.
Iqbal appeared at Leeds Crown Court yesterday with co-accused Mohammed Taj, also of Moorbottom Road, and Salim Mullan of Tuskar Road, Leicester.
The trio have all admitted their parts in a conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.
Taj, 42, was asked to be a witness at the fake wedding and also loaned Iqbal £2,000 to pay for the scam.
Mullan, 57, a convicted “ringleader” of sham weddings, gave advice to the men.
Natalie Roberts and her boyfriend Craig Hughes, who dealt with the three men, have already been sentenced for the offence.
Hughes, 30, was given 21 months custody while Roberts, 27, was given a two-year community order with supervision and a drug rehabilitation order.
Outlining the case, prosecutor Kristen Mercer told the judge, His Honour DP Hunt, that Iqbal had been asking about how he could stay in the country permanently.
She said he was given the phone number of a man known as “Abdul”.
He rang Abdul and was put in touch with Mullan who told him to get some documents and bills ready.
The court heard that Mullan had been given a four-year sentence in 2005 after he was convicted of being a ringleader in a 26-handed conspiracy to bring people into the UK illegally.
Ms Mercer said he had previously received large sums of money to arrange sham marriages for people from Pakistan.
Abdul was never traced.
The court was told that Iqbal arrived in the UK in April 2008 with a legitimate visa saying he was visiting his cousin.
In August 2010 he applied to stay on the basis that he was unfit to travel home. But the request was rejected after an official from Holmfirth Cricket Club confirmed to investigators that he was still playing for the team.
A short time later he was found working as a kitchen assistant in Holmfirth.
In December that year he made his first application for a marriage and in March 2011 visited Leeds Register Office with Roberts.
But the couple’s behaviour at the meeting was described as “inconsistent” with Roberts being singled out as “nervous” by an official who filed a Suspicious Marriage Form after they left.
On the day of the wedding the court heard that Huddersfield Register Office received an anonymous email advising them that a sham marriage was about to occur.
Evidence from a taxi driver, hired to drive Hughes and Roberts from Leicester to Huddersfield, revealed she had been taken to a house in her regular clothes and emerged in full Asian wedding dress.
A wedding photographer booked by Iqbal said he had been surprised at how few guests there were.
Shortly before the ceremony an official told how Hughes had asked for permission to film the ceremony on his mobile phone as it was his girlfriend.
He stopped mid-sentence realising his mistake and was arrested moments later.
Officers found £2,000 cash on him. Taj also had £2,000 on his person and another £2,000 at home.
Jeremy Hill-Baker, defending Iqbal, said his client was “deeply embarrassed” by his actions.
He said he had been entitled to stay in the country until April 2013 and had now lost his reputation and was £5,000 out of pocket.
He said his client did not realise the seriousness of arranging a marriage and was merely the customer and not the organiser.
Imran Shafi, mitigating for Taj, said his client was simply there to help a friend.
He said he had known it was a sham but had done little else.
Jamie Sharma, mitigating for Mullan, said his role was limited to providing advice and he had been embarrassed that his notoriety had led to him being approached by Hughes.
He said he had not been paid in money, instead receiving some free decorating of his home in kind.
Mullan said he “bitterly regretted” being involved and realised his expert advice implicated him in the sham.
But he said Hughes, Iqbal and Taj had been in contact with each other independently of him to make arrangements.
Mr Sharma said his client had serious debilitating illnesses that would deteriorate if he was given a custodial sentence.
The case was adjourned for sentencing later today.