A UK court has jailed four men for a total of more than 14 years after they were convicted of smuggling scores of migrants into Britain.
Maidstone Crown Court in Kent heard how the gang showed no regard for human life as they hid 14 people in wardrobes and a further 12 among mattresses while attempting to sneak their human cargo into the UK in the back of vans.
The smuggling ring, headed up by Mohammed Sangak, is thought to have operated between May and December of last year before being caught, during which time 87 migrants were discovered in seven vehicles by border officers on both sides of the English Channel.
Among those smuggled by the gang were nationals from Iraq, Iran, China, Kurdistan and Vietnam, including a number of children.
Prosecutors told the court the gang would hire vehicles from rental businesses in Kent, and then send drivers across the Channel to stay in hotels close to Dunkirk before collecting migrants and attempting to head back to the UK.
Seven people were held as part of Kent Police’s investigation into the gang, of which four were sentenced yesterday. Judge Philip St John-Stevens handed the men sentences ranging from two years and six months in prison, to four years and nine months.
Sangak is due to be sentenced at a later date.
DI Gary Scarfe, who led the investigation, said: “We have successfully dismantled an organised criminal network, which traded in human misery and was motivated solely by financial greed and with no regard for human life.
“Those sentenced today were responsible for smuggling people who were sometimes in desperate situations and who would then be transported in overcrowded and dangerous conditions.
“We will continue to work with partners on both sides of the Channel to ensure organised criminals do not profit from the exploitation of potentially vulnerable people.”
The sentencing came just days after prosecutors in France charged five men with smuggling Albanian migrants across the Channel into the UK. The gang, which demanded nearly €6,000 from migrants for safe passage to Britain, was caught after it became more ambitious, attempting to use minivans in its smuggling attempts after having enjoyed success stowing refugees in the back of cars.
Eric Mathais, a prosecutor in the French city of Brest, said: “We currently have five people indicted in this case, four are in custody and one is under judicial control.
“The investigation has established that there has been a number of vans, often paid for in cash, and many migrants were transported to Britain.”