A man from St Albans has been jailed for plotting to smuggle illegal immigrants across the English Channel.
Nazmi Velia was part of a gang of people traffickers who were jailed for a total of 27 years and seven months.
The 32-year-old, of Park Street Lane, St Albans, pleaded guilty to the conspiracy to facilitate the illegal entry of foreign nationals into the UK between April 1 and August 3 last year.
Thomas Mason (one of the accused) piloted a boat containing four Vietnamese men into Deal on the Kent coast.
Although he was making a dangerous crossing on the world’s business shipping lane in the middle of the night, the boat had no safety equipment, no flares, no torch and no radio.
Mason had a life jacket, but his human cargo did not, St Albans Crown Court heard.
What Mason and the other conspirators did not know was that their operation was being recorded for several months by undercover police officers.
Mason and co-defendant Velia had been involved in people smuggling in 2010.
Velia was jailed in the UK for seven years for smuggling Sri Lankan people through Kent ports in car boots and lorry trailers. Mason had been caught in France trying to smuggle a Sri Lankan man into the UK in the boot of his car and was sentenced to five months.
Prosecutor Wayne Cleaver said the RHIB (rigid-hulled inflatable boat) had been bought for £2,100 by Mason and Velia in Exmouth last June. It was taken to the Kent coast for test runs. There were also a number of unsuccessful attempts made by Mason to smuggle immigrants waiting on the Belgian and French coasts on June 3, July 13 and July 27, 2018.
On July 30, Velia and Mason fell out and he made it clear he wanted nothing further to do with Mason, who carried on with the conspiracy.
The boat was then used by Mason on August 3 to smuggle four Vietnamese migrants into the country. Mason dropped them off at the beach, they were picked up in a grey Audi which was promptly pulled over by officers.
Mason was jailed for eight years and Velia was sentenced to five years and four months for their involvement.