MEMBERS of a Birmingham-based crime gang who tried to smuggle Albanian nationals into the UK through the Channel Tunnel have been jailed for a combined total of more than 21 years.
The gang of six were all charged with conspiring to facilitate the commission of a breach of the UK immigration law by a non EU person.
Lee Anderson, of Titania Close, Frankley, and Jason Cowley, of Borrowdale Road, Northfield, both recieved 30 months in prison.
Vullnet Karaj, of Great Colmore Street, Birmingham, recieved five and a half years, Eduart Karaj, of Icknield Port Road, Edgbaston, got five years, Ilir Hani, of Malins Road, Harborne, got four years and Gillian Barker, of Lismore Drive, Harborne recieved 20 months.
On March 12, 2015, a car, driven by Lee Anderson (46) and passenger Jason Cowley (44) was stopped by Border Force officers at the UK Control Zone in Coquelles in France.
Anderson and Cowley were both arrested at the scene when Border Force officers searched the car and found two adults and a child, all Albanian nationals, hidden in the boot.
Later, on August 2, 2015, a car driven by Gillian Barker (47) was stopped at the same controls, officers found two Albanian men hidden in the boot and Barker was arrested.
On both occasions, the Albanians found in the cars were handed to the French authorities.
The cases were passed to Immigration Enforcement’s Criminal and Financial Investigation (CFI) team who, following investigations, linked both smuggling attempts to three further individuals.
On October 13, 2015, officers searched the homes of Illir Hani (44) Eduart Karaj (40) and Vullnet Karaj (41).
Travel and telephone records linked the three to the two smuggling detections.
Investigations also showed that Eduart Karaj and Vullnet Karaj were following Anderson and Cowley in a separate car at the first detection to make sure it got through safely.
The car used by Barker had also previously been driven by Karaj and Karaj on March 12, 2015 when in convoy with Anderson and Cowley and was previously owned by Vullnet Karaj.
Hani, Karaj and Karaj, all Albanian nationals, were all arrested on suspicion of conspiring to facilitate illegal immigration.
Eduart Karaj, Jason Cowley, Lee Anderson and Gillian Barker all entered guilty pleas at the beginning of their trial last month, whilst Ilir Hani and Vullnet Karaj pleaded not guilty but were convicted.
Assistant Director, David Fairclough, from CFI, said: “This was an organised crime group, motivated by money, that has been dismantled thanks to the dedication and expertise of Immigration Enforcement and Border Force officers.
“The border detections were only the start of our investigations. As time passed Eduart Karaj, Vullnet Karaj and Hani may have believed that their offences had gone undetected, but my officers were digging deeper, gathering the evidence that would ultimately ensure that they too were held to account for their offences.
“This case sends a clear message. We are patient people and never stop looking for those involved in immigration crime.”
Anyone with information about suspected immigration abuse can contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 anonymously or visit http://www.crimestoppers-uk.org.