A 22-year-old man has been jailed for three-and-a-half years after he tried to smuggle five people into the UK hidden in cabinets in a van.
The Home Office said Huzaifa Hasan Musa, from Scunthorpe, North Lincolnshire, was driving the vehicle when it was stopped by Border Force officers at the UK Control Zone in Coquelles, France, in February 2016. The officers searched the furniture-filled van and found a woman and child in one cabinet as well as three men in another. All five people were Iraqi nationals.
A spokesman said that Musa was found guilty of assisting unlawful immigration into the UK after a two-day trial at Canterbury Crown Court, in Kent, and was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison. Musa, of Mary Street, Scunthorpe, was arrested at the scene and claimed that he had been to visit his step-grandmother near Dunkirk, though he could not provide an address to officers.
The spokesman said he gave officers a number of stories about why he had the furniture in the van but mobile phone analysis identified a string of suspicious messages including one Musa had sent saying that as soon as he got through the tunnel he would get paid.
Director Paul Morgan, from Border Force South East and Europe, said: “Musa expressed surprise when the five people were found, but they had been quite deliberately hidden. They could not have got there by themselves.
“People smugglers like Musa exploit the vulnerable and put lives at risk. Border Force targets its resources on prevention, protection and prosecution activity, working in close partnership with other law enforcement agencies, to prosecute those involved in this criminal trade.”
Assistant director David Fairclough, from the Immigration Enforcement Criminal Investigations team, said: “Our officers built a compelling case to prove that Musa’s story was a pack of lies. “He claimed the purpose of his visit was to visit family, when in reality he was engaged in people
smuggling in order to line his own pockets and with no thought for the safety of those he was transporting.
“I hope this case serves as a clear warning that those who try to break the UK’s immigration laws will be brought to justice.”