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South African Priest Allegedly Performs 600 Fake Marriages - 2004-09-08

South African police have arrested a 38-year-old Methodist priest for allegedly performing 600 fake marriages. He?s identified as Hendrik Uys Jansen and police say his goal was to help illegal immigrants gain citizenship.

From Pretoria, police superintendent Morne Winwyk spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the case.

He says the organized crime task force received information about the scam and investigated. Supt. Winwky says Rev. Jansen is actually licensed to perform real marriages and the fake marriages were simply an administrative matter and only occur on paper; the two people are not present. The cost of a fake marriage was at least 5,000 rand or more than 800 US dollars.

It?s believed the scam went on for several years, but Supt. Winwyk says the investigation is still in its early stages. He says it will determine how many people were ?actually married by the priest.?

He says most of the women involved were ?innocent victims? who did not even know their identities were being used for such purposes.

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