Two men who were part of a crime group which smuggled migrants into the UK have been jailed following an investigation by the National Crime Agency.
The people smuggling attempt was organised by Saleh Khaled Farhan, 44, a UK citizen of Kuwaiti origin living in Blackburn.
Stephen Gardner, 31, originally from Beccles in Suffolk but living in Spain, used his international horse transportation business as a cover for the venture, hiding at least three people in his vehicle and bringing them into the UK from France on 21 May 2016.
He was moving four horses from Europe to the UK at the same time.
Farhan arranged for Gardner to collect the men in Marck, near Calais, take the ferry back to Dover and drop them off in Elstree, Hertfordshire, where they were collected and taken to a safe house in Wembley, north London.
Throughout the journey, he was in contact with both Gardner and one of the men inside the lorry.
NCA officers arrested Farhan at his home address in Blackburn a month later and established the link to Gardner.
Following Gardner’s arrest, officers found text conversations with his girlfriend on his phone, and in one of them he admitted having been paid around four thousand euros for smuggling three migrants during the 21 May trip.
Both men pleaded guilty to conspiring to facilitate illegal immigration, and on 19 January 2018 at Birmingham Crown Court Farhan was sentenced to three years and seven months in prison while Gardner was given a three year jail term.
NCA senior investigating officer Ty Surgeon said:
“Gardner used his legitimate business as a cover for people smuggling, thinking he could make a bit of extra money on the side.
“Farhan was key to the whole plan, and we suspect he will have been involved in many other such ventures. We know that he and Gardner were likely planning another run – in fact they were in contact only days before Farhan’s arrest.
“These men facilitated the arrival of illegal migrants into the UK by exploiting their desperation, without thought for safety and with the sole motive of profit. Working with law enforcement partners at home and abroad we are determined to protect the UK border and do all we can to disrupt the criminal networks involved in organised immigration crime.”