The men, four Sri Lankans and one British national, were caught after a Home Office led investigation, supported by Kent Police, the National Crime Agency (NCA), Europol and French, German and Swiss law enforcement agencies.
The gang helped Sri Lankan illegal immigrants attempting to reach the UK by smuggling them in vehicles through the Channel ports.
The court heard how the five men charged their Sri Lankan ‘clients’ around £4,500 each for the service. Many of the smuggling attempts were foiled by Border Force officers who discovered stowaways hiding in vehicles stopped at ports including Calais, Dunkerque, Coquelles and Dover.
Of those who reached the UK, some would also travel onwards from the UK to North America using falsified documents. Investigations are ongoing to find the individuals who entered the UK illegally.
On Wednesday, 29 January, at Maidstone Crown Court, the gang’s ringleader, 37-year-old Sudharsan Jeyakodi, of Bradley Road, Luton, was jailed for 5 years and 4 months. His accomplices Kamalanesan Kandiah, 39, Chubramanian Vignarajah, 42, British national Amarjit Mudhar, 46, and John Anes Soundaranayagam Uvais, 41, were jailed for 5 years, 3 years and 4 months, 4 years and 8 months and 5 years respectively.
David Fairclough from Home Office Immigration Enforcement - Criminal Investigations said:
“This international organised crime gang conspired to smuggle desperate people into the UK purely for their own financial gain. They were major players in bringing Sri Lankan nationals to the UK illegally but thanks to the cooperation of agencies across Europe they have been stopped.
“People smuggling is a serious crime, which preys on some of society’s most vulnerable people. This investigation demonstrates that we will stop at nothing to track down those responsible, no matter where they are in the world.”
Jeyakodi and Vignarajah, of Aurelia Road, Croydon, pleaded guilty to conspiring to facilitate illegal immigration in August last year. Kandiah, of Balmoral Drive, Hayes, London, Mudhar, of Brick Lane, Northolt, London, and Uvais of Mitcham Road, East Ham, London, were found guilty of the same charge on 17 January following an 8 week trial.
Kandiah, Mudhar and Vignarajah were arrested in the UK in May last year when officers from the Home Office Criminal Investigations team carried out a series of raids in London, Luton, Essex, France and Germany.
Jeyakodi and Uvais were arrested by police in Zurich, Switzerland, in June last year. Extradition warrants were obtained and specialist officers from the Home Office flew out to Switzerland to bring the pair back to the UK.