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Men involved in people trafficking

 Published on: 30th January 2019   |   By: News Bulletin   |   Category: Uncategorized

Two men, one from St Albans, and one from Watford, have pleaded guilty to people smuggling. 

A gang of seven used an inflatable speedboat to smuggle illegal immigrants across the English Channel. 

The RHIB (rigid-hulled inflatable boat) was used to cross the world’s busiest shipping lane to transport four Vietnamese men from the continent to the Kent coast.

But the criminal gang behind the conspiracy did not know that their smuggling operation, as well as earlier failed attempts, were being recorded by undercover police officers, St Albans Crown Court was told today, January 30.

Three defendants Thomas Mason, 36, of High Street, Eyeworth near Biggleswade, Hoa Thi Nguyen, 49, of Bisterne Avenue, Walthamstow, East London and her partner Chi Tan Huynh, 41, of Pickford’s Wharf, Wharf Road, Hoxton, London N1 all deny conspiracy to facilitate the illegal entry of foreign nationals into the UK between April 1 and August 3 last year.

Hoa Thi Nguyen also denies acquiring criminal property relating to luxury items including clothing, handbags and jewellery seized from her home.

Mr Cleaver told the jury that four others Nazmi Velia, 32, of Park Street Lane, St Albans, Egert Kajaci, 35, of Turner Drive, Oxford, Erald Gapi, 27, of Marine Tower, Abinger Grove, Deptford and Wayne Lee ,46, of Grasmere Close, Watford had already pleaded guilty to their role in the conspiracy. Another man, Patrick Ward, had been prosecuted in France.

Prosecutor Wayne Cleaver told the jury: “You will be aware that the UK can be an attractive destination for those wanting to come from overseas, but who cannot obtain a visa or other permit allowing them to do so.

“This case concerns the activities of one such organised criminal gang. They operated for several months leading up to early August 2018 wholly oblivious to the fact that their movements were under police surveillance.

“A small boat was purchased and then deployed on test runs out into the Channel.

“The operation culminated in the successful landing of four Vietnamese men onto a Kent beach in the early hours of August 3, 2018. Unbeknownst to the criminal gangs, officers of the Serious Crime Squad were waiting, and the conspiracy between them was foiled.”

On July 13 Mason took the boat out to sea from Whitstable at 8.30pm, returning the next morning at 5.17am. 

“Having been away for that period of time it is obvious that Thomas Mason went some distance in that boat. The prosecution says this was an attempt to pick up migrants from Belgium which, for whatever reason, failed,” said Mr Cleaver.

Twelve days later, on July 25, the boat landed on Deal Beach with only Thomas Mason on board with Kajaci and Lee waiting. Again, Mason had not been able to pick up anyone from the other side of the channel. Messages between Lee and Kajaci referred to him “coming back empty handed.”

But shortly after 1am on August 3, officers on surveillance heard the sound of a boat engine at sea near Deal. 

Mr Cleaver went on: “Four adults were seen walking from the sea and onto the beach having just been landing. The location of the landing was relatively inconspicuous to the extent there was little or no lighting, no people and on that stretch of coastline there were no buildings overlooking that part of the beach. The conspirators had found the perfect landing spot.”

The three defendants say they were not part of the conspiracy and played no part in it.

The case is due to last four weeks.

The case is proceeding

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