By Paul Kennedy
A Vietnamese drug dealer who smuggled migrants into the United Kingdom to work in cannabis farms has been jailed for 11 years.
Tuấn Anh Đỗ, was living in the Cheetham Hill district of Manchester in the north of England. He was arrested after an undercover police operation.
Jailing him at Manchester Crown Court this week, Judge Elizabeth Nicholls told the 55-year-old: “These actions are barbaric and inhumane.
“Those who participate have no regard for those who they transport, who are simply objects to be used for financial gain.”
The court heard that Đỗ was earning around US$1.3 million a year from his illegal enterprises.
The investigation carried out by the National Crime Agency uncovered a number of cannabis farms in properties throughout the north west of England.
Đỗ was identified as the kingpin of the illegal organisation.
Tuấn Anh Đỗ, 55, who was jailed in England for 11 years this week for conspiring to facilitate illegal immigration and drug offences. Photo courtesy of the National Crime Agency.
It was also determined he was working with other criminal gangs to smuggle migrants from France into the UK to work in the cannabis farms.
NCA surveillance teams witnessed a number of meetings between Đỗ and other gang members where they discussed bringing migrants from mainland Europe, with Đỗ claiming to have contacts with criminal networks involved in people smuggling overseas.
At one point Đỗ spoke directly to a NCA undercover officer regarding a proposal so smuggle migrants to the UK.
He was arrested at a restaurant he ran with his wife in Blackburn in June 2017.
A search of the premises found behind the bar in the restaurant was a piece of paper with a proposed pick-up location for migrants in Belgium. A substantial amount of cannabis was discovered in his car, along with paperwork for another address in Accrington, which was discovered to be a cannabis farm.
He was convicted of conspiring to facilitate illegal immigration following a trial at in November 2018. He was found guilty of two counts of conspiring to produce class B drugs following a second trial in April 2019.
This week he was sentenced for his crimes.
NCA Operations Manager Jon Sayers said: “Put simply, people smugglers put lives at risk.
“They see migrants as a commodity to be profited from, and have no care for the safety of those they move. We have seen the tragic consequences.
“In the case of Tuấn Anh Đỗ, not only was he involved in setting up these dangerous journeys, he was also looking to criminally exploit the migrants when they got here, putting them to work in illegal cannabis farms.
“We are working with law enforcement partners in the UK and overseas to stop criminal enterprises like this, and we are determined to do all we can to disrupt and dismantle them.”
Five other men, none of whom are Vietnamese nationals, were also jailed in connection with Đỗ’s criminal empire. — VNS
A cannabis farm operated by Đỗ in the north west of England. Photo courtesy of the National Crime Agency.