People-Smuggling Gang Jailed After Five-Year Investigation

People-smuggling gang jailed after five-year investigation

Sean ONeill
Crime Editor
The Times
January 22, 2008

A people-smuggling gang that organised the illegal immigration of thousands of Indians into Britain, the US and Canada has been smashed after a five-year investigation.

A series of interlinked trials, which resulted in the convictions of 40 people, ended at Leicester Crown Court yesterday. Further operations are going on across the Atlantic and in South Africa, which was a key country on the smugglers route.

The British kingpin of the organisation, Yusuf Mewasala, 49, who was said to have boasted of smuggling 6,000 people, was jailed for ten years in June. It was his third conviction for people-smuggling offences. He had been jailed in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1999 after being intercepted with his wife smuggling ten illegal immigrants into the US.

In 2001 he received a five-year jail term at Leicester for facilitating illegal immigration. But he could not resist returning to his lucrative and illegal enterprise. The money was too good.

Like most criminals he couldnt resist the lure of the profits, said an official from the Serious Organised Crime Agency, which led the inquiry.

For at least ten years the gang ran a sophisticated operation. Indian villagers were charged between 5,000 and 8,000 to be smuggled. The first stop on their journey was South Africa, where they bought South African passports for 500 from corrupt officials. That document enabled them to enter Britain unchallenged with the right to stay for up to six months.

Many settled in the Midlands, the North West and London, easily obtaining British identity documents by registering at colleges, finding jobs or entering into sham marriages.

Two of those convicted were busi-nessmen who had fallen on hard times and were recruited from a gambling addiction treatment centre. They were paid 1,000 for each trip that they made.

Other members of the gang specialised in forging documents. In one raid police discovered a passport factory in an understairs cupboard in Leicester.
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