Men who tried to smuggle four Afghani nationals into UK in back of a van are jailed
PUBLISHED: 19:58 14 August 2018 | UPDATED: 19:59 14 August 2018
Two men who took a “reckless gamble” trying to smuggle four Afghani nationals - including a two-year-old child - into the country concealed in a specially constructed hide within a van have been jailed.
Gheorghe Virlan, 23, and Darius Flavius Stanis, 24, both Romanian nationals of no fixed UK address, were caught when a Sprinter van disembarked from a ferry at Harwich International Port after arriving from the Hook of Holland.
The van, driven by Virlan with Stanis as a passenger, was inspected by Border Force officers who discovered a mattress on a raised platform at the rear of the passenger seating area.
A dividing panel between this space and the cargo area had been fixed using new screws.
A visual examination of the depth of the rear cargo space led officers to believe that there was a small hide between this and the passenger space.
Further examination revealed that four Afghani nationals were crammed inside a purpose-built space, constructed from a metal frame and plywood.
As well as two adults, there was a child of 15 and a two-year-old infant.
Virlan and Stanis were arrested on suspicion of assisting illegal immigration on July 8 and the case was passed to Immigration Enforcement Criminal and Financial Investigations (CFI).
Both men were each sentenced immediately to three years in jail when they appeared at Chelmsford Crown Court on Monday, August 13 to admit the offence.
Inspector John Nicholson, from CFI, said: “Virlan and Stanis took a reckless gamble with this people smuggling attempt, hoping to make a quick profit.
“They were content to put the lives of four people – including two children – at risk by cramming them into such a confined space. Had their been any kind of accident they would have had no means of escape.
“We always work closely with Border Force colleagues and will not hesitate to prosecute in these types of cases.”
Mick Holmes, from Border Force, said: “Our officers are always vigilant to the different methods that people smugglers may attempt to use.
“Through our frontline role and close working with CFI we are determined to bring criminals like this to justice.”