A SCAM using fake marriages and divorces to get illegal immigrants residential status in the UK has been exposed by a judge.

High Court Family Division judge, Mr Justice Nicholas Wilson, lifted the lid on what is believed to be a growing and organised racket being used to gain residential status in the UK for Indians who would not otherwise be entitled to stay here.

The cases yesterday were at Bolton County Court and involved couple from the town and people from Blackburn, Leicester and Warrington.

The judge, in a case which he said raised "substantial concern," refused to grant five "quickie" undefended Special Procedure divorces sought by Indian couples after finding that their marriages had effectively been "of convenience'' purely aimed at getting the husband or wife residential status in the UK.

In one case, the divorce petition alleged the couple parted within five days of the wife gaining residency.

Now the judge has ordered that copies of his judgment should be sent to the immigration authorities with view to wider investigation and also possibly a further probe into the five cases on which he gave judgment.

He branded claims in the petitions as "reckless lies" and said the cases involved "bogus allegations".

It "exposed a concerted attempt to by-pass the requirements of the present law", he said.

Hinting that this was just the tip of an iceberg, he said: "One wonders whether the abuse is more widespread than is reflected in this handful of five petitions."

Staff at Bolton County Court became suspicious after spotting what the judge called "curious similarities" in the form of some of the petitions presented there.

The petitions in question were all "clearly the product of the same type of word processor," said the judge.