Photo: NCA press materials

HGV driver who helped smuggle migrants into the UK is sentenced to 9 years in prison

Last month, it was revealed that a lorry driver from Romania and 4 other men resident in the UK had been convicted of people smuggling after a National Crime Agency investigation. The lorry driver has now been sentenced and will spend 9 years in prison.

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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.

As reported by The Argus, Palage was sentenced to 9 years in prison on April 13th.

“You performed the essential function of driving the immigrants across the border in your lorry. You had a clear organisational role in managing aspects of the enterprise. You expected, and received, large sums of money for your involvement,” said the Judge at Bournemouth Crown Court.

Richard Harrison, NCA branch commander, added:

“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.”