Trio who smuggled family of five through Harwich port in a van are jailed
- Credit: HOME OFFICE/PA
Three people smugglers caught hiding a family of five in the back of a van at Harwich port have been jailed for 30 months each.
Leontin Padure, 37, Maria-Mirabela Bulumez, 22, and Marcel-Ionut Frant, 27, were all arrested on February 16 after they were stopped at the Essex port.
Border Force officers searched a red Mercedes Sprinter van driven by Padure at Harwich International Port as it arrived on a ferry from the Netherlands.
The officers found four people hiding in a false bulkhead in the back of the van.
A fifth person was found hiding behind a row of seats.
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Air holes had been drilled into the false partition where the family of three men and two women, who came from Afghanistan, were found.
Officers also found tools used to seal up the false space between the driver’s cab and the back of the van.
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The three smugglers, who all come from Romania and have no fixed UK address, admitted charges of assisting unlawful immigration.
They were each sentenced on August 24 at Chelmsford Crown Court to 30 months in prison, the Home Office said.
Frant also received a nine-month concurrent sentence for possessing a false driving licence.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “We will not tolerate people smuggling in any form, and are doing all we can to tackle those responsible for this appalling trade.
“This was a reckless attempt to circumvent our border controls and anyone in doubt about the consequences of such actions should take note - you will be caught and put behind bars.”
The Home Office said the cases of the Afghan family are now being dealt with according to the immigration rules.