A couple have been jailed after running an underground people-smuggling operation – getting illegal immigrants OUT of Britain.
Iulian Mirancea, 34, and his partner Tatiana Oprea, 28, masterminded the scheme to get illegal migrants – who had mostly outstayed their British visa – into France.
The pair, of Ramsgate, Kent, stuffed up to 24 people at a time inside a heavy goods vehicle, before taking them to France on the ferry.
Romanians Mirancea and Oprea were arrested at their home in June this year, following a cross-Channel sting operation run jointly between Kent Police and French forces, who arrested an accomplice in Calais.
Officers discovered more than #2,500 in cash at their property, and the following day were charged with conspiracy to commit immigration offences and money laundering.
Detective Constable Darin Worsfold, from the Special Branch Investigations Unit at Kent Police, said: “This was a great example of Kent Police and the French authorities working together to protect the public.
“Mirancea would liaise with his associate in France for people to travel to Paris in heavy goods vehicles.
“Up to 24 individuals at any one time, including children, would be hidden in the back of a lorry and taken across the Channel.
“The victims would then be collected in Calais by the associate, and taken to Paris in the back of a panel van.
“According to Mirancea, the victims would pay £70 to travel with him keeping half of this fee plus expenses.”
Mirancea was jailed for seven years and girlfriend Oprea was sentenced to eight months, on 17 October at Canterbury Crown Court.
DC Worsfold added: “Working with the authorities in France, we ascertained the ‘trafficking runs’ had taken place at least once a week.
“It was confirmed Mirancea was in regular contact with his associate in France and it was confirmed that both he and Oprea had wired thousands of Euros out of the UK between 1 January and 17 June.
“The fact that Mirancea and Oprea have each received jail terms reflects the seriousness of people trafficking and I hope this case serves as a warning to others considering entering into this type of illegal activity.
“Kent Police will continue to work with partners on both sides of the Channel to ensure organised criminals do not profit from the exploitation of potentially vulnerable people.”