Kent

Serving soldier 'part of Calais Jungle smuggling ring'

Lance Corporal David Plumstead Image copyright Gareth Fuller/PA
Image caption David Plumstead is on trial at Maidstone Crown Court

A serving soldier was part of a ring of smugglers trafficking illegal immigrants from the Calais Jungle into the UK, a court has heard.

David Plumstead, 24, is accused of trying to help a fellow soldier transport two migrants into Kent.

He is on trial at Maidstone Crown Court alongside car wash owner Zindan Ahmed, 36, who is accused of financing the transportation of several migrants.

Both men deny conspiracy to assist in unlawful immigration.

The court heard L/Cpl Plumstead, who was based at Barker Barracks in Paderborn, Germany, conspired with Lance Corporal Kyle Harris, who brought three migrants into the UK between March and May 2016.

The jury was told Harris, 29, arranged with Zindan Ahmed to be paid £2,500 in advance and a further £2,500 once each of the migrants had been delivered to the UK.

Maidstone Crown Court was told L/Cpl Plumstead accompanied Harris to meet an unknown people smuggler at a McDonald's restaurant just outside Calais and close to the entrance to the Channel Tunnel.

The unknown smuggler was due to hand two migrants to Harris but the meeting was unsuccessful and the two soldiers returned to the UK alone.

Harris pleaded guilty to his role in the conspiracy in August and is awaiting sentence at the conclusion of the current trial.

L/Cpl Plumstead denies knowing anything about the operation or helping Harris.

Image copyright Gareth Fuller/PA
Image caption Car wash owner Zinden Ahmed denies conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration

Prosecutor Walton Hornsby said: "David Plumstead's involvement in this conspiracy is a very minor one and did not involve the bringing of an illegal migrant into the UK.

"But in getting into the car and going to pick up a migrant he must have been an active participant with Kyle Harris on this particular trip."

L/Cpl Plumstead's alleged involvement came to light following Harris's arrest in May 2016 when an Iraqi and a Syrian migrant were found in the back of his car by border officials.

L/Cpl Plumstead and Mr Ahmed, of Brompton Street, Middlesbrough, deny a charge of conspiracy to assist in unlawful immigration between 1 November 2015 and 1 July 2016.

The trial continues.

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