Viet Nam News
LONDON — A Vietnamese woman described by police as the ringleader of a people smuggling operation has been jailed for eight years in the United Kingdom.
Nguyen Thi Hoa, 49, was one of seven people sent to prison last week by a judge at St Albans Crown Court.
A second Vietnamese national, Huynh Tan Chi, 41, was jailed for two years for his role in the smuggling enterprise.
The pair, who are both living in London, were arrested after a rigid hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) carrying migrants arrived in Kent on England’s south coast.
Four Vietnamese nationals were seen leaving the boat, having been smuggled over from France, and walking to a waiting vehicle, at which point they were stopped by police.
During a trial of three of the offenders, which ended last Friday (February 22), the court heard how the group attempted to facilitate the illegal entry of migrants, predominantly those from Việt Nam, through France and Belgium to the UK on a number of occasions last year.
One of the migrants who was detained following the interception in August told the court he was promised free accommodation and food in exchange for labour, but did not know what country he was in when he left France or where he was going to, and had to cling onto a strap while in the boat to prevent himself from falling in.
It’s believed the group were smuggling the migrants into the UK so that they could then exploit them for labour.
During the sentencing, the Judge said this was a "professional well organised conspiracy, purely motivated by financial gain" and said the group showed a "callous disregard for safety".
Detective Inspector Trevor Davidson, who led the investigation for ERSOU, said: “This was a complex investigation which came about following intelligence that an organised crime group were using a speedboat to bring migrants from Europe to England. We set up a surveillance operation and witnessed a number of failed attempts by the group to bring people across, before officers caught them landing in Walmer in August with four migrants.
“Not only was the operation highly illegal, the group were putting the lives of the migrants at risk, forcing them to travel without lifejackets in a tiny boat across the Channel at night, for their own financial gain.
“We are pleased that justice has been done today but we know that there is more to be done, which is why we continue to work closely with our Border Force colleagues to tackle organised immigration crime.”
Gordon Scarratt, Head of Border Force Maritime, said: “Border Force’s collaboration with the East Region Special Operations Unit means that this people smuggling gang now face significant jail sentences.
“This case shows the effectiveness of the multi-agency approach taken to secure the UK’s border and territorial waters.
“Since these arrests, further action has been taken. In November Border Force, along with French colleagues, opened the joint Coordination and Information Centre in Calais (CCIC) and has now tripled the number of cutters operating in the Channel, enhancing our ability to disrupt those engaged in people smuggling across the Channel.
“Border Force will continue to work with law enforcement colleagues, both in the UK and abroad, to ensure that people smugglers face the consequences of their crimes.”
Steve Reynolds, Head of the NCA-led INVIGOR organised immigration crime task force, said:
“Crossing one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes in this type of craft is hugely dangerous, and it demonstrates the complete lack of regard for human life that criminals involved in people smuggling have. To them, desperate migrants are a commodity to be profited from.
“Working with our partners in policing and Border Force we are determined to do everything in our power to bring people smugglers targeting the UK to justice, and this operation is an excellent example of that.
“The NCA-led organised immigration crime task force is also working in France, as well as upstream in Europe and further afield, to gather intelligence and disrupt the organised crime groups involved.” — VNS