Monthly Archive: February 2017

0

Illegal immigrants found in lorry at North Shields part of alleged people smuggling plot

An alleged people smuggling plot was smashed when a lorry at a Tyneside ferry terminal was found with 20 illegal immigrants hidden among its cargo, a court heard.

Newcastle Crown Court was[1] told a search of a truck which came into the UK on a ferry at North Shields[2] uncovered 19 Albanians and a Syrian man on September 1 2015.

Prosecutors told the court customs officers opened the back of the HGV they noticed a foisty smell and “saw feet within the lorry”.

It is alleged Ferdinand Gjolla organised a conspiracy to smuggle people with the help of others, including brother-in-law Armand Mekolli and truck driver Marek Niedziechi, which all three deny.

Paul Abrahams, prosecuting, told jurors: “They conspired with each other, and others unknown, it was not a closed agreement, to facilitate unlawful entry to a member state of the European Union.

“We say these three men, with others that we cannot identify, agreed to smuggle people into the UK who had no right to remain, they were not from the UK or EU citizens.[3]

“It is the Crown’s case Gjolla is the organiser, he facilitated it, set it up, did the running around, organising.

“Niedziechi is the transporter. Mekolli is there to assist Gjolla move the people once they are in the UK.”

The court heard a sealed HGV driven by Niedziechi, who worked for a firm based in Warsaw, Poland, was stopped at North Shields Ferry Terminal on September 1 2015, having arrived from Holland.

It was carrying electrical equipment to be delivered to a firm in Cramlington[4] and Niedziechi denies he knew about the extra, illegal cargo of people.

Prosecutor Paul Abrahams told the court: “An officer asked him to open the door fully and after the door was fully opened the officer noticed a foisty smell.

“On further investigation she saw feet within the lorry.

“On inspection, a number of people were found within the lorry.

“In total, 20 people were taken out of the lorry and detained. They consisted of 19 Albanians and one Syrian, none of whom had permission to enter the UK.”

Niedziechi, 33, told investigators he had travelled from Rimini in Italy, through Luxembourg, Belgium and Rotterdam to the Netherlands, then on to the UK.

He denied knowing there were people being smuggled in the back of his lorry and told detectives “It was not on purpose”.

Prosecutors claim Niedziechi conspired with Albanian nationals Gjolla, 41, who is now a British citizen, and Mekolli, 30, to facilitate unlawful entry into the UK, which they all deny. All three men have pleaded not guilty to a charge of conspiracy to facilitate unlawful entry to a member state of the European Union between June 2013 and October 2015.

The court heard the Albanian nationals found in the lorry were deported almost immediately but the Syrian man claimed asylum in the UK due to the troubles in his homeland.

The man told investigators he had travelled from Syria through Europe to try to reach his wife in Britain. He said he initially stayed around Calais in France but then a friend advised him to travel to Belgium, where he met some Albanians and was taken to the Netherlands, where he and the others were put in the lorry in a “quiet area”.

The court heard lorry driver Niedziechi was carrying seven mobile phone sim cards when he was arrested at the North Shields port.

Mr Abrahams told jurors telephone records, cell site analysis and number plate recognition cameras prove a link between the three accused men.

He told the court there was a meeting in Bracknell, Essex, where arrangements were made between Niedziechi and Gjolla just over a week before illegal cargo of people was brought into the UK.

Mr Abrahams said Gjolla travelled to the Netherlands from his home in Yorkshire two days before the ferry set sail, to “set up” the smuggling.

Records show one of the Albanian immigrants, who was carrying a mobile phone when he was caught, had been in contact with a phone linked to Gjolla.

Mr Abrahams said: “Nineteen Albanians and one Syrian end up on a lorry, one of whom has sent a message to Gjolla, who happens to know the lorry driver.”

Prosecutors claim Gjolla and Mekolli, both of Redhill Avenue, Barnsley, South Yorkshire, travelled to Cramlington on the morning the ferry arrived at North Shields and that the mobile phone of Mekolli, of no fixed address, contacted Niedziechi’s phone at around the time the vessel was due in the UK.

All three men deny involvement in the conspiracy.

The trial continues.

References

  1. ^ Newcastle Crown Court was (www.chroniclelive.co.uk)
  2. ^ at North Shields (www.chroniclelive.co.uk)
  3. ^ EU citizens. (www.chroniclelive.co.uk)
  4. ^ firm in Cramlington (www.chroniclelive.co.uk)