A St Albans pilot and career criminal has received a seven-year prison sentence following a plot to fly four illegal immigrants into the UK.
Following an investigation by the National Crime Agency (NCA), Richard Styles, 53, was arrested at Deenethorpe Airfield, Northamptonshire, in March 2022.
He had flown to the airfield from Belgium, with a cargo of three men and one woman from Albania who were attempting to avoid immigration checks.
Working with Silvano Turchet, the pair rented the six-seater Piper Seneca plane. They also worked with taxi driver Vijayakumar Sivakumar, who was arrested following the plane’s landing.
As Styles was arrested, he joked: “I normally get arrested for drugs, so it’s a bit strange.”
Styles had previously been convicted of aviation-related offences. He went on the run from Belgian authorities in 2003 for smuggling ecstasy tablets, and was also sentenced to 12 years in prison for dropping cannabis into Jersey.
Both Styles and Turchet were also arrested by Dutch authorities in 2017 for another people smuggling enterprise.
Styles admitted the charge of breaching immigration law at a hearing on August 8 last year. On April 28, 2023, he was sentenced to seven years in prison.
NCA regional head of investigations Jacque Beer said: “Styles was a career criminal who previously used his piloting skills to move consignments of drugs around Europe.
“His comments to my officers show that he considered getting arrested nothing more than an occupational hazard.”
Photo credit: National Crime Agency