Barrister struck off after secretly divorcing woman who 'tricked him for visa'
A barrister has been struck from the bar for trying to divorce his wife ‘behind her back’, one month after meeting her on Facebook.
Andrew Ehi Ukiwa, from Totteridge, north west London, said he realised after the wedding that he’d been tricked into marriage so his partner could get a visa to live in the UK.
He filed for divorce without his wife’s consent and had official documents sent to the wrong address so they could be completed by someone else with a fake signature.
The Bar Tribunals and Adjudication Service’s disciplinary hearing heard that Mr Ukiwa met his wife in person for the first time when he travelled to Nigeria in May 2012 to visit his sick father.
He had met his bride, a medical practitioner, on Facebook in April. Mr Ukiwa, 59, said his wife arranged for them to marry at a mass wedding ‘which conveniently happened to be taking place a few days’ later.
Mr Ukiwa supported the woman’s visa application and the two were married on June 2.
But after tying the know, his wife’s ‘attitude to him changed’. The hearing was told: ‘She wanted nothing to do with him. He said he did not want to marry her. It was a mistake.’
The barrister returned to the UK a month after the wedding and wrote to the British Embassy in Nigeria, the Home Office in the UK and the National Crime Agency in an attempt to withdraw his support for his wife’s visa.
He claimed they had a ‘sham marriage’ and said he was misled and deceived into marrying his wife, who arrived in Britain in March 2013.
After being refused entry into his home, she her husband text message, reading: ‘Nowhere to go, Andrew… I will have to break [sic] door to your house. Not my fault. You left me with little choice.’
The hearing was told that Mr Ukiwa asked his wife for her address to get her consent to legally end their marriage, but she refused to provide one.
Instead he gave Barnet County Court an address in Peckham, south London, where they sent a petition for a divorce in August 2013.
A signed ‘Acknowledgement of Service’ document was returned and a Decree Nisi – a provisional decree of divorce – was issued the following month.
But in October the woman claimed that none of the writing on the documents was her – which was confirmed by a handwriting expert – so she reported him to police.
In 2016 Barnet Family court ruled that Mr Ukiwa’s divorce had been secured fraudulently and the hearing recently found him guilty of dishonesty.
Panel chairman Judge Witold Pawlak said the husband wrongly stated his wife’s address ‘deliberately and in an attempt to deceive’ both her and the court, knowing that someone else ‘would complete and return the Acknowledgement of Service with the intention of obtaining a divorce fraudulently’.
He added: ‘Whoever completed the Acknowledgement of Service not only answered the questions in a way which was coherent and in the way (he) would have wanted to see, but also, and very significantly, attempted to copy the wife’s signature.
‘It is patently impossible for some random stranger to have attempted that. We infer he believed if she saw the contents of the petition she would not agree to it so he decided to go behind her back in the way that we are sure he did.
‘The public expect the highest ethical standards of barristers, not just in their professional lives but in their personal lives.
‘This dishonesty was not only related to his wife but also it was dishonesty in relation to a court in providing a false address for her to which the Acknowledgement of Service was to be sent by the court with a view to him answering the questions in order to obtain a divorce behind her back.’
The hearing was told that the couple’s divorce was finalised in 2019.
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