Kent

Trio guilty of smuggling Vietnamese migrants into Kent

Police surveillance of the boat being used Image copyright sbna
Image caption Police used covert surveillance to monitor the activities of the gang

Three gang members who smuggled four Vietnamese men into the UK in a dinghy have been found guilty of a people-trafficking plot.

The trio's operation, last summer off the Kent coast, was monitored and recorded by undercover police.

Thomas Mason, 36, Hoa Thi Nguyen, 49, and Chi Tan Huynh, 41, were convicted of conspiracy to facilitate the illegal entry of foreign nationals into the UK.

They and four others will be sentenced at St Albans Crown Court next week.

Nazmi Velia, 32, of Park Street Lane, St Albans, Egert Kajaci, 35, of Turner Drive, Oxford, Erald Gapi, 27, of Abinger Grove, Deptford, and Wayne Lee, 46, of Grasmere Close, Watford, had previously admitted their roles in the conspiracy.

Image copyright sbna
Image caption Police surveillance revealed the boat being taken out numerous times before August, the court heard

During the trial, the court heard that the smugglers used a dinghy, bought by Mason, of High Street, Eyeworth, near Biggleswade, and Velia, to ferry illegal migrants across the English Channel.

During surveillance by the Serious Crime Squad, they were seen repeatedly launching the small rigid inflatable boat (RHIB) before landing with four migrants on board on the beach at Walmer on 3 August 2018.

Image copyright sbna
Image caption The court heard the smugglers found "the perfect landing spot" on a secluded stretch of coastline

Prosecutor Wayne Cleaver told the jury some migrants were "so desperate" for asylum they were prepared to undertake "such a treacherous journey".

"They seldom do so without the connivance of criminal gangs whose primary interest is financial profit rather than any more noble motive," he said.

Image copyright Sbna
Image caption Members of the gang bought the dinghy on 26 June 2018, the court heard

The migrants, who did not speak English, were taken into custody after a car driven by Kajaci was stopped nearby.

Mason, who was carrying a life-jacket and walkie-talkie, was also arrested.

Image copyright sbna
Image caption The plotters were unaware they were being monitored by police

Hoa Thi Nguyen, 49, of Bisterne Avenue, Walthamstow, and her partner Chi Tan Huynh, 41, of Pickford's Wharf, Hoxton, also denied the charge.

Mr Cleaver said luxury items valued at nearly £30,000 were found at her home at a time when it appeared she had "very little legitimate income".

Sentencing is due to take place on 27 February.

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