Judge slams 'relaxed' immigration officials who freed Chinese migrants
A judge overseeing one of the biggest people smuggling cases in Britain yesterday criticised the “relaxed attitude” of immigration officials after scores of Chinese immigrants were freed.
Published: 5:56PM BST 10 Jun 2009
Five Turkish men were given sentences totalling 13 years for their prole in the people trafficking operation.
The gang drugged and half suffocated Chinese migrants who paid up to 21,000 to be sneaked into Britain.
They were crammed into car boots three at a time, hidden under lorry driver's cabs and herded into spaces in the hulls of boats.
The gang sealed air vents so the human cargo could not be detected with sniffing equipment that detects carbon dioxide.
Some were given sedatives and sleeping pills to ease the ordeal of the journey which could last over a year.
A trial heard police and border guards had caught almost 100 illegal immigrants arriving in Britain after intercepting 27 smuggling trips in a massive surveillance operation.
However, the UK Border Agency let them all go and told them to report to the immigration centre at Lunar House in Croydon, south London.
Just a “handful” ever showed up and the rest have disappeared into immigrant communities in London and across Britain.
Judge Christopher Hardy praised detectives who smashed the “extensive and sophisticated” gang which raked in million of pounds.
However the Judge, sitting at Southwark Crown Court, added: “The attitude of the police contrasts with the very relaxed attitude evidenced by the UK immigration authorities.”
One of those set free was trafficker Zhung Xen who would have been on trial with his co-conspirators had he not been released. He is believed to be still at large.
The gang members in court yesterday, including drivers and organisers, were together jailed for a total of 12 years and nine months in prison. Another six men had earlier been jailed for a total of 38 years.
The “well-oiled” network, with close links to Chinese gangs and with operatives stationed in France and Belgium, made countless millions in the biggest people smuggling ring uncovered in recent years.
Musa Hurman, 49, Halil Karakus, 28, Mustafa Gunduz, 50, and Muhammed Ozen, 32, who have all been granted the right to settle in Britain, received jail terms of between four years and 18 months after being convicted by a jury of conspiracy to assist illegal immigration.
Eser Tasci, 27, who admitted the charge, was jailed for 15 months and is likely to be deported.
Passing sentence, Judge Hardy, said: “You have abused the trust expected of you now that you are lawfully resident in this country, by knowingly taking part in an extensive and sophisticated conspiracy to facilitate unlawful immigration.
“The conspiracy lasted nearly a year and it is impossible to say how many people were illegally trafficked into this country in that time.
“There were only 27 observed occasions but common sense dictates this represents only a fraction of the total number.
“It was a highly profitable business run with a high degree of planning and organisation. You were all in it for the money.”
Most of the money made my the gang was squirreled away to Turkey and China.
Speaking after the sentence, Detective Sergeant Richard Southwell, of Scotland Yard's Special Intelligence Section (SIS), said: “This was a well-oiled and highly organised network with contacts all over Europe and Asia. It was already well-established by the time we started watching them.
“You can only guess how many people they brought into this country illegally.”
At an earlier hearing ring-leaders Chen Yu, 22 and Inan Taskin, 31, were each jailed for 10 years. They recruited a network of Turkish men to run the London end of the chain.
Another member of the gang was Briton John Ashcroft, 61, who was caught with three Chinese men in the boot of his car as he returned from one of his many trips to Belgium. All three men have vanished.
Despite the judge's comments, a spokesman for the UK Border Agency said: “People need to understand if they are in the UK illegally there is no hiding place. We are removing record numbers of people – including 5,400 foreign criminals last year alone.”
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