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Police in Portugal, Belgium break up sham marriages ring

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — The European Union's law enforcement agency says authorities in Belgium and Portugal have dismantled a gang suspected of organizing sham marriages between mostly Portuguese women and Pakistani men.

Europol says in a statement Tuesday the men were seeking to obtain residence rights in the European Union and the women were paid several thousand euros (dollars) to marry them. After tying the knot in Portugal, the couples moved to Belgium where they used apparently bogus companies to obtain welfare benefits and legal rights. The statement did not say why Belgium was the chosen destination.

Europol says police arrested 17 suspects in Belgium — where it also found 43 people it described as "irregular migrants" — and three in Portugal.

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