Speed up investigating bogus marriages: auditor

The Audit Commission on Wednesday called on the Immigration Department to clear a backlog of bogus marriage cases in Hong Kong.

A report by the public spending watchdog said as of December 2020, there were 2,237 outstanding suspected bogus marriage cases, of which almost half of them had been pending for up to two years.

The rest of them, meanwhile, had not been dealt with for between two and 11 years.

One case cited by the commission concerned a suspected bogus marriage in November 2012, which was flagged by mainland authorities as possible bigamy.

It said attempts to locate the suspect were “not entirely effective”, despite the Immigration Department having made several phone calls and five home visits in 2013 to try to find him.

It was only in 2019 when the officers carried out a case update that they realised the suspect had died in January that year.

The watchdog advised the department to consider setting time targets for such cases, and step up efforts in locating suspects.

The Commission also called on the department to ensure its list of civil celebrants for marriages is up to date and to consider providing refresher courses for them.

According to the Marriage Ordinance, civil celebrants must be either a practising solicitor or a practising notary public.

However, the Audit Commission found that 34 of the 2,277 people listed by the authorities as civil celebrants were neither.