Two Polish lorry drivers who attempted to smuggle a group of Albanians into the UK through North Shielsd ferry port have both been jailed for 18 months.
Krzysztof Szabelski, 44, and Waldemar Kuchcinski, 41, were arrested on November 30 last year after Border Force officers at the port discovered the stowaways during vehicle searches.
Three men were found hiding underneath the driver’s bed inside Szabelski’s cab, and a fourth man was found at the side of Kuchcinski’s vehicle.
He admitted to officers he had been hidden inside the lorry during the journey from Amsterdam.
Both lorries had arrived at North Shields from the Dutch port and were destined for a distribution centre in Glasgow.
Following an investigation by a specialist Home Office Criminal Investigations team, Szabelski and Kuchcinski were both charged with facilitating a breach of UK immigration law.
They pleaded guilty in December and on Friday January 31, they were both handed 18 month jail terms at Newcastle Crown Court.
Adrian Watkins from Home Office Criminal Investigations said: “This was a pre-planned attempt by both Szabelski and Kuchcinski to smuggle desperate people into the UK purely for their own financial gain.
“Through our investigations we were able to prove that both men were at the centre of this plan, and had full knowledge that the Albanians were hiding in their vehicles.
“This case sends a strong message to those who think they can cheat the immigration system – you will be caught and the consequences will be severe.”
All four Albanians were interviewed and removed back to Amsterdam on the day they were discovered.
Border Force officers use hi-tech search equipment to combat immigration crime and detect banned and restricted goods that smugglers attempt to bring into the country.
They use an array of search techniques including sniffer dogs, carbon dioxide detectors, heartbeat monitors and scanners - as well as visual searches - to find well-hidden stowaways, illegal drugs, firearms and cigarettes which would otherwise end up causing harm to local people, businesses and communities.
Anyone with information about suspected smuggling should contact 0800 59 5000.