An accountant who entered into a “sham marriage” for the promise of $30,000 — and her own chance at permanent residency — has been spared jail but now faces deportation.
Belinda Hui Cheng Yong, 33, pleaded guilty in Brisbane District Court on Wednesday to arranging a pretend relationship and seven counts of providing false documents, which are offences under the federal Migration Act.
Crown prosecutor Daniel Caruana said Yong was aged between 27 and 29 at the time of the offending, and was a Malaysian citizen.
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“That has certain implications … there’s an automatic cancellation of her current visa based on her being guilty of an offence,” Caruana said.
The court heard Yong arrived in Australia in 2013 and studied for university degrees while working in the adult entertainment industry, also developing a cocaine addiction, before moving on to jobs in accounting.
She married a man who was also on a temporary visa on January 19, 2018, and on May 19 that year applied for a new visa claiming to qualify due to the marriage.
“The parties had no intention to live together as a married couple in what might be referred to as a sham marriage,” Caruana said.
The seven counts of providing false documents were based on Yong’s statutory declarations that the marriage was genuine.
“None of these declarations were true and were to support her false claim to the visa,” Caruana said.
The court was told Yong was offered $25,000 to take part in the marriage, with another $5000 if the male co-offender secured a visa, but her primary motivation was to obtain her own visa.
Caruana said sham marriages involved people making public declarations about their personal and private lives and were therefore very difficult to detect without significant investigations or tip-offs, while offering a lot to gain for offenders.
Yong was convicted in 2021 for possessing a commercial quantity of cocaine but was released on parole immediately.
The new charges demanded a jail term that would deter other potential offenders but Yong should also be given credit for pleading guilty and avoiding a lengthy trial, Caruana said.
Yong’s barrister Tracy Thorp handed Judge Deborah Holliday multiple character references and a psychiatrist’s report, and said her client’s mother had travelled from Malaysia to support her during sentencing.
Holliday later noted the references outlined Yong’s volunteer work as a dance teacher, and that she had sought treatment for alcohol and drug abuse disorders as well as a personality disorder.
“(The report) opined that in the context of your personality vulnerabilities and distance from family, you rapidly succumbed to the influence of people in your proximity,” the judge said.
She said Yong was a low-level and remorseful participant in a wider and relatively sophisticated criminal operation and was now unable to work in Australia to support her family in Malaysia.
“Offending of this kind strikes at the heart of the migration system,” Holliday said.
Yong was sentenced to two years in prison but released immediately on a $1000 good behaviour bond.
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