Lorry driver among 5 UK-based gang members convicted of people smuggling
You can read this article in 3 minutes
A lorry driver from Romania and 4 other men resident in the UK have been convicted of people smuggling after a National Crime Agency investigation.
According to the National Crime Agency (NCA), who investigated the case for a 4 year period, the gang of 5 smuggled 3 migrants into the UK in the back of a refrigerated lorry through Portsmouth port.
NCA officers observed how migrants were smuggled onboard a lorry transporting spinach from Spain to the UK in March 2019.
After crossing the channel via a Caen-Portsmouth ferry, the lorry was driven to an industrial estate in Runcton, West Sussex.
The migrants, an Iraqi woman aged 30 and two Iraqi brothers aged 18 and 13, were then escorted into a Volkswagen people carrier before being transferred to other cars at a layby on the A27.
The NCA reports that the driver of the lorry, Romanian national Marinel Danut Palage, attempted to run off as officers approached his truck, but he was detained and arrested. During a search of his cab, plastic bags containing £34,500 cash were found. Further bundles of euros and sterling to the value of around £7,000 were located hidden behind a tachograph panel.
The alleged ringleader of the operation has been named as Goran Jalal from Bradford. He was assisted by Palage and fellow Bradford resident Kamaran Kader. Pshtewan Ghafour from Middleborough, as well as Manchester duo Jamal Saied and Hemin Salih, were also involved.
Following a four week trial at Bournemouth Crown Court, Palage and Ghafour were found guilty of conspiring to facilitate illegal immigration yesterday. Their sentencing will be known on April 20th.
Saied and Mustafa were found guilty of facilitating illegal immigration. Salih absconded before the start of the trial, but was convicted of the same offence in his absence. Their sentencing will also be known on the same day next month.
Commenting on the case, NCA Branch Commander Richard Harrison said:
“This people smuggling group were content to put vulnerable migrants, including children, in the back of refrigerated lorries for hours on end during dangerous Channel crossings. It is clear from the evidence we found that their sole reason was for profit, without any regard to the migrants safety. Tackling organised immigration crime is a priority for the NCA, and working with our partners we are determined to do all we can to disrupt and dismantle the criminal networks involved.”